By Joe Beck - email@example.com
A Berryville husband and wife convicted in a cigarette trafficking scheme that authorities believe involved more than $8 million face the loss of land, three vehicles and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash under a preliminary forfeiture order entered Wednesday in U.S. District Court.
The defendants, Mohammad Syed Lone Kashmiri and his wife Farhat Jabeen Lone Kashmiree, pleaded guilty in late May to selling and distributing contraband cigarettes. They are two of six defendants charged in the case.
Kashmiri, identified in court documents as the owner and operator of the 340 Quick Mart at 304 N. Buckmarsh St. in Berryville, also pleaded guilty to money laundering.
Kashmiri and Kashmiree have agreed to surrender the items listed in the forfeiture order signed by Judge Michael F. Urbanski. But the forfeiture could still be contested by a third party seeking to recover the listed items. If no one else tries to claim the property, Urbanski will sign a final order confirming the forfeiture.
The items listed in the forfeiture order include more than $600,000 in currency and bank deposits; a 2011 Volkswagen Routan van; a 2012 Volkswagen EOS car; a 2010 Toyota Land Cruiser SUV; and a parcel of real estate in New York City.
The items listed were agreed to by the prosecution and defense attorneys as substitutes for more than $8.7 million initially sought by the government from the couple. Court documents linked the $8.7 million as assets gained "from proceeds traceable" to the illegal cigarette sales.
The offenses for which the couple was convicted of also carry maximum prison sentences of 20 years on the money laundering charge and five years on the sale and distribution of contraband cigarettes.
The convictions of Kashmiri and Kashmiree were the product of a federal investigation conducted in four states from early 2009 through 2011. A little more than a year before his arrest, Kashmiri made news in Frederick County when he won $1 million in the Virginia Lottery.
Court documents state that the defendants made millions by buying large amounts of cigarettes in Virginia and then selling them in New York, a state with a much higher cigarette tax. The defendants bought almost 400,000 cartons of cigarettes from undercover law enforcement from June 2009 through May 2011, according to court documents.
The defendants paid $8.7 million for the cigarettes, which carried a retail value of $19.1 million in New York and $22.9 million in New York City in 2010, according to the indictment.