From the office of the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland:
Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte sentenced Amrik Singh Melhi, age 52, of Clarksville, Maryland, today to 46 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, arising from a scheme involving the transport and distribution of untaxed alcohol. Judge Messitte also entered an order that Melhi forfeit $975,327.32 to the United States.
The sentence was 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 Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office.
“The focus on cigarette and alcohol smuggling is one of several initiatives that the IRS is partnering with local other federal agencies to combat,” said IRS Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett. “The state revenue loss in taxes is substantial especially in these tough economic times.”
According to his plea agreement, Amrik and his wife Ravinder Melhi owned and operated several businesses in Prince George’s County, including Tick Tock Liquors located in Hyattsville; Langways Liquors located in Lanham; and Decker’s Liquors located in Bel Air.
Amrik Melhi admits that he conspired with Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson, Prince George’s County Police officer Richard Delabrer and others to obstruct commerce by extortion.
Specifically, Amrik Melhi agreed to pay Delabrer in return for official acts involving the transport and distribution of untaxed alcohol in Maryland and Virginia. Amrik also agreed to provide money, campaign donations and other things of value to Jack Johnson in exchange for official acts including obtaining licenses and permit inspections to conduct business in Prince George’s County, and influencing legislation favorable to Melhi’s liquor and restaurant businesses.
In June 2009, co-conspirator Amir Miljkovic began discussing with a source and an
undercover agent working with the FBI, the transport and sale of untaxed cigarettes and alcohol across state lines. Shortly thereafter, Miljkovic introduced Delabrer to the source and undercover agent as a police officer who could protect the shipments of contraband goods.
By July 2009, Delabrer began purchasing contraband alcohol from the undercover agent, which he sold to Amrik Melhi for distribution at Melhi’s liquor stores. Delabrer worked part-time for Amrik and Ravinder Melhi, providing security at Tick Tock Liquors. Delabrer initially served as a go-between, coordinating the sale of contraband liquor from the undercover agent to Amrik Melhi.
Eventually, Delabrer introduced the undercover agent to Melhi, who began transacting the shipment of illicit goods directly with the undercover agent. Delabrer provided protection for the delivery of the contraband alcohol by following the vehicle transporting the liquor while possessing his police identification and police-issued firearm. Melhi always had Delabrer present for the contraband transactions. Amrik Melhi and others were involved in multiple sales of truckloads of contraband alcohol, and paid the undercover agent $116,505 in cash for the contraband alcohol they purchased.
Richard Delabrer, age 46, of Laurel, Maryland pleaded guilty to the extortion conspiracy and to possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and agreed to the entry of an order of forfeiture of $2,820,120. Amir Miljkovic, age 39, of Bowie, Maryland, owner of an auto glass store in College Park, Maryland, also pleaded guilty to the extortion conspiracy. Delabrer and Miljkovic have not yet been sentenced.
Ravinder Kaur Melhi, age 49, pleaded guilty to conspiracy arising from a scheme to illegally access a protected Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration computer for commercial and personal gain. She was sentenced to 18 months probation and ordered to pay a fine of $25,000.
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 prosecuted the case.
Mr. Rosenstein, Mr. McFeely and Ms. Hammett expressed their appreciation to Prince George’s County Chief Mark Magaw for the assistance that he and his department provided.