Chicago Ridge man to serve state, federal sentences on cigarette conspiracy

FAYETTE COUNTY — A 59-year-old Chicago Ridge man was sentenced Tuesday in Fayette County Court to 2-years in the Illinois Department of Corrections after he pleaded guilty to possessing more than 1,000 packs of unstamped cigarettes.

Jihad M. Shihadeh was originally arrested in May 2017 during a traffic stop by Illinois State Police on Interstate 70 in Fayette County.

During the traffic stop officials discovered more than 1,000 packs of cigarettes without tax stamps. Shihadeh was subsequently charged with two Class 3 felonies for possessing more than 1,000 packs of contraband cigarettes and transporting more than 40,000 cigarettes in evasion of tax.

Shihadeh and 34 other defendants were subsequently indicted in federal court a few months later in Missouri.

The indictment charged the defendants with conspiring to traffic in contraband cigarettes, conspiracy to distribute synthetic drugs and money laundering.

According to the indictment, defendants conspired for more than two years to buy contraband cigarettes in St. Louis, Missouri, a low tax market, and transport and distribute them in Chicago, Illinois and New Jersey, high tax markets.

Defendants used several convenience stores which they owned or operated to create the appearance of legitimate cigarette purchases.

Illegal profits from the contraband cigarette sales were laundered through accounts associated with the convenience stores.

In addition, synthetic drugs, commonly referred to as K-2, was sold on a daily basis from a handful of the convenience stores.

Defendants not only purchased finished product from a national distributor but manufactured synthetic drugs themselves, importing precursor chemicals from China.

Shihadeh was ultimately convicted in federal court and sentenced to 18 months in prison. The federal sentence and the Fayette County sentence will be served concurrently, as will the three years federal and one year state sentences for supervised release.

In federal court, Shihadeh and four other defendants have been ordered to pay nearly $357,000 in restitution to the State of Illinois Department of Revenue