The owners of Decker’s Liquors in Bel Air were charged by federal authorities Monday in connection with a cigarette and alcohol case which has swept across the state.
Amrik S. Melhi, 51, and his wife Ravinder K. Melhi, 49, both of Clarksville, Md. were among nine individuals charged with a bevy of offenses in a scheme involving the transport and distribution of untaxes cigarettes and alcohol, according to the Justice Department. Among those charged are three Prince George’s County police officers.
The grand jury indictments, dated Oct. 14, were unsealed today following the arrests of the defendants and the execution of search warrants, Justice officials said in a statement. Local sources said federal agencts converged on Decker’s Liquors Monday, apparently in connection with the search warrants.
The official statement from the Justice Department is below:
THREE PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY POLICE OFFICERS AND SIX OTHER DEFENDANTS CHARGED IN TWO FEDERAL INDICTMENTS
Charges Include Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Firearms Violations;
Forfeiture Sought for $3.5 Million, 25 Properties, 13 Vehicles and 84 Bank Accounts
Greenbelt, Maryland – In two indictments unsealed today, a federal grand jury has indicted a total of nine defendants, including three Prince George’s County Police officers. Seven defendants, including two of the officers, are charged in the first indictment with conspiring to commit extortion under color of official right in a scheme involving the transport and distribution of untaxed cigarettes and alcohol. The second indictment charges the third officer and another man with a drug and gun conspiracy. The indictments were returned on October 14, 2010 and unsealed following the arrests of the defendants and execution of search warrants today, in a coordinated operation that involved approximately 150 law enforcement officers.
The indictments were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Sparkman of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office.
“Police officers are given badges and guns to prevent crimes, but these police officers allegedly used them to commit crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “The indictment charges that they crossed a bright line from catching criminals to conspiring with criminals.”
Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation stated, “This investigation demonstrates that no one is above the law. The FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, is committed to seeking out all forms of corruption, especially among those that serve the public.”
“Public officials must comply with the same laws as the citizens they serve,” said IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Sparkman, Washington, D.C. Field Office. “The IRS-Criminal Investigation is helping to ensure that all Americans, including public officials, are held to the same standard.”
First Indictment: Conspiracy to Commit Extortion
The first indictment charges seven defendants with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion under color of official right:
Prince George’s County Police Sergeant Richard Delabrer,
age 45, of Laurel, Maryland;
Prince George’s Police Corporal Chong Chin Kim,
age 42, of Beltsville, Maryland;
Amrik Singh Melhi, age 51, of Clarksville, Maryland,
owner of numerous Maryland liquor stores;
Ravinder Kaur Melhi, age 49, of Clarkesville,
co-owner of liquor stores and wife of Amrik Singh Melhi;
Amir Milijkovic, age 39, of Bowie, Maryland,
owner of an auto glass store in College Park, Maryland;
Chun Chen, aka Eddy Chen, age 34, of Bowie; and
Jose Moreno, age 49, of Alexandria, Virginia.
Specifically, the indictment charges that the defendants agreed that Amrik Singh Melhi and others would pay police officers in exchange for them using their official authority to ensure the safe transport and distribution of untaxed cigarettes and alcohol in Maryland and Virginia.
The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of $3.5 million, 25 properties, 13 vehicles and 84 bank accounts that allegedly are proceeds of crimes or were used to facilitate crimes.
The defendants in the extortion conspiracy case face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The defendants are expected to have their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt today beginning at 1:30 p.m. and continuing through the afternoon.
Second Indictment: Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine
In the second indictment, two defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine and use of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking:
Prince George’s County Police Officer Sinisa Simic, age 25, of Woodbridge, Virginia; and
Mirza Kujundzic, age 30, of Woodbridge, Virginia.
Simic and Kujundzic face a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison for the drug conspiracy charge and a mandatory five years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence, for possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The defendants are expected to have their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt today beginning at 1:30 p.m. and continuing through the afternoon.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI and IRS for their work in these investigations. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys James A. Crowell IV, A. David Copperthite and Sujit Raman, who are prosecuting the cases.
Mr. Rosenstein, Mr. McFeely and Ms. Sparkman expressed their appreciation to Prince George’s County Chief of Police Roberto L. Hylton for the assistance that he and his department provided.