Estimated More Than 20 Tractor-Trailer Loads of Merchandise Seized
Suspects Allegedly Used Internet to Resell Merchandise Stolen from Major Retailers
OAKLAND, Calif. – LAWFUEL – Law News Network – Eight Bay Area residents face federal charges today following a series of enforcement actions yesterday by federal agents and local police targeting a criminal ring that allegedly purchased merchandise stolen from major retailers and sold the goods over the Internet and shipped them to other states.
The arrests stem from a nearly two-year investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Oakland Police Department into a ring that bought stolen goods, such as baby formula and medical supplies, from individuals who stole these products from large retailers, including Safeway, Target, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart. The stolen goods were allegedly resold through a Hayward company called Rosemont Wholesale.
During yesterday’s operation, agents executed search warrants at six locations in the East Bay, including two Oakland convenience stores – Kings Food Market and 1 Star Discount Store – and at Rosemont Wholesale’s warehouse in Hayward. At the warehouse, investigators estimate that they seized more than 20 tractor-trailer loads of merchandise. The recovered products include cases of vitamins, cold medicine, other over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, baby formula, and hygiene products.
According to the criminal complaint, the ring received the merchandise from a network of people who stole it from major retailers. The owners of the two Oakland convenience stores allegedly bought the goods from these individuals at prices far below their actual value. Some of the products were sold at the convenience stores, but much of the merchandise was allegedly transferred to Rosemont Wholesale’s warehouse. Searches of the dumpsters outside the warehouse during the investigation turned up thousands of discarded security tags and bar code labels from major retailers. The complaint states that Rosemont Wholesale advertised retail merchandise over the Internet on the website www.wholesaleramp.com.
“Schemes like this hurt legitimate businesses,” said Charles DeMore, special agent in charge of the ICE office of investigations in San Francisco. “Perhaps even more troubling, the profits from these kinds of illegal enterprises are often funneled back into other kinds of criminal activity, which is why dismantling these schemes is a top ICE enforcement priority.”
Those taken into custody yesterday in connection with the case are:
§ Hassan Swaid, 37, of Fremont, the suspected ringleader of the scheme and the president and owner of Rosemont Wholesale, Inc.;
§ Sufian Al-Khalidi, 45, of San Leandro, an employee of Rosemont Wholesale.
§ Wahidullah Ahmadi, 47, an employee of Rosemont Wholesale;
§ Mossleh Amari, 46, of San Leandro, an employee at Kings Food Market;
§ Nabil Munasar Al Zoqari, 23, an employee of 1 Star Discount Store;
§ Basheer Ammari, 23, of San Leandro, the son of Mossleh Amari, and
In addition to those arrested yesterday, two other defendants charged in the case are still being sought: Munasar Alzoqari, 51, the owner of Kings Food Market; and Mohammad Aldhufri, 24, an employee of 1 Star Discount Store.
“We are proud to assist our federal and local law enforcement partners in this investigation by using our financial investigative expertise to follow the illicit profits generated by such criminal organizations and to pursue appropriate charges,” said Roger Wirth, special agent in charge for IRS Criminal Investigation. “We are united in our resolve to financially disrupt and eliminate criminal enterprises that prey on legitimate businesses for their ill-gotten gains, which ultimately ends up coming out of the honest citizens’ pockets through higher retail prices.”
All of the individuals were released on $200,000 bond. All of the defendants except for Swaid and Al-Khalidi are scheduled to appear for identification of counsel on Tuesday, February 13, 2007. All of the defendants are scheduled for a preliminary hearing on March 1, 2007.
The defendants are accused in a two-count criminal complaint of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and conspiracy to engage in interstate transportation of stolen goods. The six who are currently in custody made their initial appearance in federal court in Oakland earlier today. The maximum statutory penalty for each count is five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Fraud investigators of the retailers initiated their own investigation in 2005 and then alerted the Oakland Police Department about the possible theft scheme. The Oakland Police Department then referred the matter to ICE and IRS for further investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of California. The charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
A copy of this press release may be found on the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/can.
Electronic court filings and further procedural and docket information are available at https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.
Judges’ calendars with schedules for upcoming court hearings can be viewed on the court’s website at www.cand.uscourts.gov.
All press inquiries to the U.S. Attorney’s Office should be directed to Luke Macaulay at (415) 436-6757 or by email at [email protected]