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October 1, 2013

Four men plead in large stolen cigarette conspiracy

Four South Carolina men have pleaded guilty in a conspiracy to traffic more than $7.5 million in stolen cigarettes.

Four South Carolina men have pleaded guilty in a conspiracy to traffic more than $7.5 million in stolen cigarettes.

The guilty pleas were announced Tuesday by U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles. They were: Moinuddin Patwary, 26, of Lexington; Syed Ahmed, 43, of North Charleston, Amer Kamal Quzah, 50, of Summerville; and Chandon Podder, 45, of North Charleston.

Patwary and Ahmed pled to conspiracy to receive stolen property, which carries up to five years in prison. Quzah pled to two counts of false statement to a federally insured institution, which carries up to 30 years in prison. Podder pled guilty to structuring a financial transaction to evade reporting requirements, which arries up to five years in prison.

Between September 2009 and November 2011, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explositive conducted 27 separate undercover sales of purportedly stolen cigarettes, ranging from a thousand dollars to over a million. In all, agents received more than $7.5 million.

The cigarettes purchased from undercover officers were then offered for sale at retail locations, including some in Charleston and Columbia.

The pleas were accepted by the Judge Sol Blatt Jr. A sentencing date has not been set at this time. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams of the Charleston office is prosecuting the case.

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