South Daytona, FL - An 18-month operation leads to the end of an organized crime ring that spread throughout five counties across Central Florida, including Volusia & Flagler Counties.
Under the cognomen "Operation Bengal King," the Volusia Sheriff's Office's (VSO) latest investigation revealed that this unnamed South Daytona-based organization reached beyond the Volusia County line and into other counties in Central Florida, including Flagler, St. Johns, Orange and Brevard.
The most recent arrests made by deputies included the apprehension of the group's ringleaders, 53-year-old Anis Ahmed and his wife, 46-year-old Selina Ahmed. Anis is currently charged with conspiracy to deal in stolen property; organized dealing in stolen property, which is a first-degree felony; and two counts of dealing in stolen property. Selina is charged with dealing in stolen property. Their charges garnered bonds worth $225,000 and $25,000, respectively. Neither one of them remains in custody.
The Ahmeds are also the owners of Bengal's Discount Liquors—the namesake of the operation—on Beville Road, where the organization was said to have trafficked goods stolen from stores such as Walmart, Lowe’s, Home Depot and Walgreens throughout multiple jurisdictions.
Four other members besides the Ahmeds were arrested as part of the operation and charged with grand theft and dealing in stolen property. Two other members have been identified, but investigators say both suspects passed away from heroin overdoses before they could be charged.
“This was an amazing job by our detectives into a brazen, large-scale operation by people who ruined lives and took advantage of their drug-addicted co-defendants,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said. “They should go away for a very long time.”
The investigation—which officially began in November 2019—found that the Ahmeds were actively purchasing large amounts of property stolen from the aforementioned stores before trafficking the same property through their liquor store. Investigators say the Ahmeds, along with another employee, who deputies identified as Joseph Bennett, one of the deceased suspects in this investigation, initiated, organized, financed and directed the thefts, which occurred multiple times a week, sometimes even daily.
The group stole around $375,000, which included high-end tools, electronics, and large amounts of cigarettes, between October 2019 and June 2020. Detectives state that the group was known to use stolen license plates on their getaway vehicles as well. On several occasions, they also fled from law enforcement at high speeds, putting the lives of innocent motorists in danger during the process.
While most members simply loaded their carts and left in a snatch-and-grab scenario, one member of the group, 29-year-old Zachary Ridgill, escalated to violence on more than one occasion. In one incident, Ridgill leveled a stun gun against a cashier at a St. Johns County Home Depot. In Brevard, Ridgill was said to have attempted to stun a loss prevention employee during a theft, eventually leading to a physical fight between the two. Investigators added that Ridgill also tried to run down a Volusia deputy while they were laying stop sticks as he fled from law enforcement.
A full list of the defendants, and their status, in addition to the Ahmeds includes:
The case is currently being prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution in Orlando.