HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The leader of a $30 million cigarette operation pleaded guilty to six felonies Friday morning in Henrico County Circuit Court.
Ebrahim Saif Alsaidi, 30, of Richmond Hill, NY, pleaded guilty charges, including possession with the intent to distribute tax-paid cigarettes, and racketeering offenses.
The plea comes after a three-year-long investigation by Henrico County Police Division and Henrico County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office into one of the “largest cigarette smuggling operations in Virginia history.”
Alsaidi was sentenced to 85 years but will serve an active prison sentence of three years and six months.
Police say Alsaidi ran an interstate cigarette trafficking organization to purchase tax-exempt cigarettes in Virginia and transport them to New York City, where they were sold for big profits. Members of the organization have also been tied to several violent crimes, including car-jackings and armed robbery.
The operation employed 24 people and was “extremely sophisticated and well organized,” police said.
In fact, police say Alsaidi brought associates to Henrico County from Michigan, North Carolina, and New York to work for him. He would also put those associates on polygraphs to ensure loyalty.
Over the three-year investigation, police said that the criminal enterprise purchased over $30 million cigarettes and more than 600,000 cartons in cash.
“As the cigarettes were sold illegally in New York, the Commonwealth was denied over $1,500,000.00 in sales tax revenue,” said a Henrico Police spokesperson.
Police say Alsaidi set up at least 35 fictitious businesses, using other peoples’ identities, false business forms, and forged IRS documents to facilitate the illegal activity.
In addition to the prison sentence, Alsaidi will have to pay a $500,000 fine, plus additional civil penalties and payment of taxes levied against people whose names he used to set up and conduct his front businesses.