Two men being held in jail while awaiting trial for cigarette trafficking are accused of plotting to kill witnesses against them. In an indictment unsealed in Brooklyn Supreme Court Thursday,
Basel Ramadan and Yousseff Odeh are charged with conspiracy to murder witnesses and with soliciting a potential hit man.
The murder-for-hire plot was hatched from New York City's Rikers Island jail where the two have been held since their May arrest on the initial cigarette-trafficking and money laundering charges.
The Staten Island Advance reports that Odeh was a supporter of blind sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the spiritual guide for the 1993 World Trade Center bombers who is serving a life sentence at the Supermax penitentiary in Colorado for his role in a subsequent conspiracy to bomb several New York landmarks.
Odeh also reportedly had close ties to Abdel Sattar, a key associate of the blind sheik. Sattar was convicted in 2005 for aiding Rahman in his efforts to direct terrorist activities from his cell in the United States.
Odeh and Ramadan were charged with 14 others last spring for their alleged involvement in a cigarette trafficking ring that laundered more than $55 million in illegal proceeds and evaded more than $80 million in New York taxes. Similar schemes in the past have helped fund terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hizballah.
The new indictment alleges that in August, Odeh and Ramadan gave someone "descriptive information" about people they expected to serve as witnesses against them, including their names and addresses. Ramadan then made a phone call from Rikers Island Sept. 17 seeking a contract killer. But his call went to an undercover police officer. Ramadan told the undercover officer that he has "one of those problems" and expressed his appreciation when the officer said he could "take care of it."
Ramadan and Odeh face from 25 years to life in prison if convicted on the new charges.