Press Releases

ATC announces arrests for fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting

Part of continuing, statewide effort to combat tax fraud

May 18, 2009

ATC agents arrest Lafayette-area business owner in counterfeiting investigation

On Friday, May 1, 2009, Agents with the State Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) Division of the Louisiana Department of Revenue arrested a Lafayette-area convenience store owner on charges related to the illegal sales of counterfeit Nike shoes and fraudulent activities related to tobacco sales. Mohamed A.M. Alshamam was taken into custody pursuant to an investigation which revealed that he and his business partners were selling counterfeit Nike tennis shoes. According to agents, the crimes occurred at the suspect’s business which was identified as USA Express Inc located at 1317 E. Pinhook Rd Lafayette, La.

The Investigative Services Unit of ATC began the investigation after the shoes were observed during routine inspections by ATC Agents assigned to the Lafayette regional field office. The agents made undercover purchases and received confirmation from the Nike Corporation that the items were counterfeit. In December of 2008 ATC and the Attorney Generals office executed a search warrant at USA Express Inc. and seized over 430 pairs of suspected counterfeit Nike shoes.

The investigation also uncovered evidence suggesting that the store owners misrepresented the amount of tobacco being sold by USA Express. Tobacco permit renewal applications submitted to ATC by USA Express, Inc. reported that the business sold approximately $3,000 to $4,000 in tobacco products annually over the course of the past three years. However, Alshaman admitted to agents that the business actually sold approximately $10,000 in tobacco each month which would bring the total tobacco sales to approximately $120,000 per year.

Evidence suggests that the majority of the USA Express, Inc.’s sales were generated from illegal activity. Business records indicate that the owners laundered over $200,000 in funds generated from illegal trademark sales and tobacco application fraud. In addition to the phony products and the fraudulent tobacco sales figures, Alshaman also admitted to investigators that he was not collecting sales tax during sales transactions that involved the counterfeit items.

Agents have also issued arrest warrants for Alshaman’s two business partners identified as Ali Abdulwali Saleh and Qusem M Al Shaibi. Evidence obtained during the investigation revealed that they also participated and received funds from the scheme.

“Historically, a small percentage of businesses that sold alcoholic beverages were used as a front for criminal activity and because of that the law gives ATC the responsibility to investigate all criminal activity that we encounter at licensed alcoholic beverage establishments.” said ATC Commissioner Murphy Painter.

Criminal Charges filed against the three suspects in this case are as follows:

    LSA R.S. 14:229 – Illegal Possession of Counterfeit Trademarks (436cts) LSA R.S. 14:133 – Filing False Public Records LSA R.S. 14:230 – Money Laundering LSA R.S. 15:1253 – Racketeering LSA R.S. 14:73.5 – Computer Fraud (3cts)

ATC agents arrest New Orleans-area business owners for fraud, falsifying public records

On Thursday, April 30, 2009, Agents with the State Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) arrested two New Orleans-area business owners on charges related to forgery and falsifying public records.

Ramon A. Cruz and Salvador N. Abud were taken into custody by ATC agents assigned to the New Orleans Regional Office of the Louisiana Department of Revenue. ATC was conducting an investigation into a possibly forged alcoholic beverage permit that was discovered during an unrelated licensing process. A suspicious state alcoholic beverage permit was posted at the business of Kenner Store, LLC dba Williams Blvd Shell II located at 2721 Williams Blvd, Kenner, La. The license was observed by an agent that was assigned to assist Cruz, an alcohol permit applicant, with the licensing process. The investigation begain after ATC verified that the business was still in the application process and had not been issued a state permit to sell alcohol.

Agents later interviewed Cruz about the permit and he confessed to forging the permit and of using it to obtain alcohol for his business. The investigation revealed also that Abud was a hidden owner in the business whose identity was intentionally concealed during the application process. State law requires that all individuals with a financial interest in a business applying to sell alcohol must be identified. Abud’s financial interest was later determined to be 50 percent of the business. Agents were also able to identify two (2) additional businesses related to Cruz that Abud had hidden financial interest in as a 50 percent partner. The two later confessed to intentionally concealing Abud’s financial interests in the businesses. As a result, Agents identified five applications including two renewal applications submitted to the City of Kenner that were intentionally falsified.

“What makes this crime especially egregious is that these individuals intentionally tried to circumvent the law by intentionally forging an alcohol permit and falsifying state documents in an attempt to use this office to facilitate criminal activity. The state can not afford to allow this to happen because it undermines the entire regulatory process” said ATC Commissioner Murphy Painter.

Both suspects were booked into the Jefferson Parish Correctional Facility.

Ramon A. Cruz is charged with the following:

    LSA R.S. 14:72 - Forgery LSA R.S. 14:26;14:133 – Criminal Conspiracy to Commit Filing False Public Records(5cts) LSA R.S. 14:133 – Filing False Public Records (5cts)

Salvador Abud is charged with the following:

    LSA R.S. 14:26;14:133 – Criminal Conspiracy to Commit Filing False Public Records(5cts) LSA R.S. 14:133 – Filing False Public Records (5cts)

For more information contact:

    S/A Sasha Hyderkhan Public Information Officer, Training and Support Services Unit Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Office: 225-925-4041 Cell: 225-773-8088 Fax: 225-922-0312