Egg Harbor Township man gets 57 months for trafficking contraband cigarettes, mortgage fraud

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CAMDEN – An Egg Harbor Township man was sentenced Wednesday, Aug. 6 to 57 months in prison for trafficking millions of dollars in contraband cigarettes, laundering the proceeds through his Pleasantville store and participating in a $2 million mortgage scheme in New York, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Muhammad Shafique, 44, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman to charges of conspiracy to traffic contraband cigarettes, conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud. Hillman imposed the sentence in Camden federal court. 

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, from June 2010 through February 2012, Shafique engaged in a large-scale operation to traffic 149,668 cases of contraband cigarettes and defraud New Jersey of more than $4 million in tax revenue.

He purchased the cigarettes from undercover officers and laundered the proceeds through the bank account of Get & Go Supermarket in Pleasantville, a store he purchased in part with funds from the scheme. 

Shafique was also involved in a separate conspiracy to use stolen identities to obtain mortgage loans on properties in New York. Using falsified identification documents and straw buyers posing as the actual homeowners, Shafique and other conspirators defrauded various banks and lenders out of almost $2 million. 

In addition to the prison term, Hillman sentenced Shafique to serve five years of supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution of $4,046,382 for the cigarette trafficking and an additional $1,405,000 for the mortgage fraud.

Fishman credited special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Robin Shoemaker, and special agents of the FBI in New Jersey and New York, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford and Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos, respectively, in the arrest.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Diana Carrig of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Camden. Defense counsel was Jose Luis Ongay in Philadelphia.

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