Four men charged in illegal cigarette smuggling ring in Rhode Island that cost the state more than US$5.7M in cigarette tax revenue

SCITUATE, Rhode Island , November 9, 2011 () – Federal and state authorities in Rhode Island have arrested four Syrian men in a cigarette smuggling ring that authorities estimate cost the cash-strapped state more than $5.7 million in cigarette tax revenue.

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State police announced the arrests Wednesday after carrying out search warrants in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Virginia and South Carolina.

Facing state charges are 47-year-old Wassim Khiami, of Warwick, 59-year-old Wad Alkhiamy, of Johnston and 41-year-old Tarek Shikh Alard of Cranston. Authorities say they are charged with selling unstamped cigarettes and importing cigarettes to evade taxes. It is unclear whether they have lawyers.

Authorities say the alleged ringleader, 35-year-old Mohamad Mohamad, of Cambridge, Mass., is facing federal charges. His attorney did not immediately return a message on Wednesday.

Officials say they found the contraband cigarettes at 15 stores in Rhode Island.

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