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State Police Intelligence Unit and the Division of Taxation Dismantle Smuggling Operation of Illegally Imported Cigarettes After Large Shipment is Seized

Contact: Lieutenant Brian K. Casilli, Assistant Detective Commander Telephone: (401) 444-1215

Colonel Steven G. O'Donnell, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Director of the Department of Public Safety announces that during the month of April 2012, members of the Rhode Island State Police Intelligence Unit and the Rhode Island Division of Taxation conducted a three-week investigation into the illegal sale of fraudulent and forged stamped cigarettes. The investigation revealed that these cigarettes were being sold at the Doyle Food Mart, located at 110 Doyle Avenue, Providence, Rhode Island. Members were able to identify the principal operator of the establishment as Wissam Khalil, age 39, of 25 Orchard Street, Central Falls, Rhode Island.

During the investigation, members of the Rhode Island State Police Intelligence Unit, operating in an undercover capacity, purchased cigarettes from Doyle Food Mart that contained altered tax stamps from the State of Virginia. The cigarettes were sold to the undercover detective directly from Wissam Khalil. It should be noted that the Commonwealth of Virginia charges a drastically reduced tax for cigarettes compared to Rhode Island and other states. (Virginia tax per pack is $.30; Rhode Island tax per pack is $3.46).

Members prepared an affidavit and arrest warrant for Wissam Khalil, as well as a search warrant for the establishment. Members of the Division of Taxation Enforcement, with the State of Rhode Island, assisted in the investigation. Coincidentally, during the morning of Tuesday, April 24, 2012, investigators from the Virginia Division of Taxation Enforcement contacted Rhode Island investigators from the Division of Taxation Enforcement to advise that an individual from Rhode Island had made a large purchase of cigarettes from a Sam's Club in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Staff members at the Sam's Club were suspicious of the purchase, due to its large size, (more than 850 cartons) at a cost of more than $35,000.00. The staff was able to take note of the vehicle (van) that was utilized for the transport of the purchase. This information was relayed to Rhode Island authorities. Members of the Intelligence Unit conducted a follow-up investigation and were able to determine that Wissam Khalil and another unknown male had made the purchase. Members then conducted surveillance of several different locations related to the market.

At approximately 5:00 p.m., members of the Intelligence Unit, along with uniform members of the State Police, observed and stopped the suspect vehicle on Route 95 in Richmond. The operator was identified as Najd Khalil, (brother of Wissam) and Wissam Khalil as the passenger. Wissam Khalil was arrested based on the affidavit and arrest warrant, and a search of the vehicle was conducted. On initial appearance, the van appeared to be empty. A further detailed inspection revealed that the interior of the van contained an intricate and elaborate hidden compartment system. The compartments were located behind enclosed walls on the inside of the van, and had been constructed to conceal hidden cavities that were not easily visible. The search of the hidden compartments revealed hundreds of secreted cartons of cigarettes. All of the smuggled cigarettes were embossed with Virginia tax stamps. A total of more than 850 cartons were seized from the hidden compartments, which has an estimated retail value in Rhode Island in excess of $80,000.00.

Subsequently, members coordinated and executed a search warrant at Doyle Food Mart, which resulted in the seizure of approximately 40 altered packs of Virginia tax stamped cigarettes. Additional items of evidentiary value were also seized as well as United States currency. The sole employee of the establishment at the time of the search warrant was identified as Bassam Khalil, another brother of Wissam Khalil.

The following individuals were arrested as a result of the illegal smuggling operation: • Wissam Khalil, age 39, of 25 Orchard Street, Central Falls, Rhode Island on the following charges: 1. Affidavit and arrest warrant from the Rhode Island State Police Intelligence Unit for Forgery or re-used stamps on cigarettes. 2. Affidavit and arrest warrant from the Rhode Island State Police Intelligence Unit for Sale of Unstamped Cigarettes. 3. Importation of Cigarettes with the intent to evade taxes. 4. Forgery or re-used stamps. 5. Sale of un-stamped cigarettes. 6. Conspiracy to import cigarettes with the intent to evade taxes.

• Najd C. Khalil, age 25, of 2660 Diamond Hill Road, Cumberland, Rhode Island on the following charges:

1. Importation of cigarettes with intent to evade taxes. 2. Conspiracy to import cigarettes with intent to evade taxes.

• Bassam Khalil, age 47, of 2660 Diamond Hill Road, Cumberland, Rhode Island on the following charges:

1. Forgery or re-used stamps on cigarettes 2. Sale of un-stamped cigarettes.

This concerted effort between the Division of Taxation and the Rhode Island State Police is another example of the emphasis that The Honorable Governor Lincoln Chafee has placed on public corruption and state fraud. The Rhode Island State Police, in conjunction with other agencies, will continue to be vigilant in vetting out public corruption and any form of state fraud.

All three subjects were held at State Police Headquarters overnight pending a morning arraignment in the Sixth Division District Court on the aforementioned charges.

Related links

  • Department or agency: Rhode Island State Police
  • Online: http://risp.ri.gov
  • Release date: 04-25-2012

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