Police bust cigarette tax evasion ring

PROVIDENCE, RI – State police say they have broken up a cigarette tax evasion ring that was costing the state almost $6 million a year. Three Rhode Island men and one from Massachusetts face criminal charges.

State and federal officials surrounded a table bulging with contraband cigarettes and cash to announce what is thought to be the largest cigarette tax evasion bust in at least five years - possibly in Rhode Island history. The alleged ring leader: Mohamed Mohamed, a Syrian national from Cambridge, Massachusetts. State police Colonel Steven O'Donnell says Mohamed rented storage space in three states to store thousands of cartons of cigarettes he smuggled from low tax states.

"Investigators allege that Mohamed would routinely travel to Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina," O'Donnell says, "to purchase large quantities of cigarettes from retailers and wholesalers for re-sale to convenience stores in Rhode Island."

Also charged are the owners of three Rhode Island convenience stores, who allegedly sold the cigarettes at full price without paying the state's $4 a pack tax.

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