Authorities said Elmar "Eric" Rakhamimov, the owner of the Europe Restaurant, bought about $5.4 million worth of cigarettes, which they said were delivered and stored at his home on Woodsyde Court in Owings Mills and at the restaurant.

A man who answered the phone at his home declined to comment.

From Maryland, the cigarettes were taken to New York for resale. Maryland levies a tax of $2 per pack or $20 per carton. New York takes more than twice as much: $4.35 per pack and $43.50 per carton.

Authorities said the group could make between $15 and $20 on a carton of cigarettes.

Elmar Rakhamimov, Artur Zakharyan and Ilgar Rakhamimov acted as a broker, middleman and distributor of the cigarettes, authorities said. Nikolay Zakharyan, Adam Azerman, Shamil Novakhov and Ruslan Ykiew took them to New York and other cities to sell, they said.

Authorities said they laundered the profits through banks in Latvia, Cyprus and Estonia. The banks would return the funds disguised as business payments for medical supplies or other equipment, they said.

At midmorning Wednesday, a neon "open" sign remained on at the Europe Restaurant and employees continued to serve customers from trays of deli meats, pickled vegetables and delicate desserts in a long glass case.

Next to the door were stacks of fliers and newspapers in Cyrillic writing, along with advertisements for vodka in Cyrillic on the wall.

A woman behind the counter declined to comment.