A year long Westchester County investigation ended in the arrest of 21 people for their alleged involvement in the sale and transportation of untaxed cigarettes. It is alleged that during the course of the investigation, the defendants purchased $16 million worth of unstamped cigarettes from undercover officers. It is further alleged that a confidential informant assisted in targeting numerous individuals whose total sales and purchases exceeded nine million unstamped cigarettes. These illegal transactions equated to a New York State cigarette excise tax stamp fraud of approximately $21 million.
According to the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office:
New York State imposes an excise tax on cigarettes in the amount of $2.75 per pack of twenty cigarettes. Additionally, New York City is permitted to impose an additional $1.50 per pack, bringing the total combined tax rate to $4.25.New York State collects the cigarette tax through the sale of tax stamps, which are sold to licensed New York State stamping agents. An agent must affix the stamps to packages of cigarettes in order for those packages to be sold in New York State. The stamping agent can then sell the cigarettes to wholesale or retail businesses.To circumvent the excise taxes, and earn more profit on cigarette sales, some cigarette dealers illegally purchase unstamped cigarettes from unauthorized sources.
The defendants – Ali M. Abadi, Ibrahim A. Ahmad, Mohamed Ahmed, Omar Nagib Ali, Ibrahim Althnaibat, Jamil H. Alzokari, Mohamed A. Benkhiyar, Ahmad Aldabesheh, Yin Sin Wu, Obrero Barrio, Andre Ford, Ronald Everett, Przaemyslw S. Holynski, Alou Keita, Mohamed Lemine Ould Sidi, Henry Polanco, Abdo Quhshi, Norman A. Saif, Mohamed O. Salick, John Taveras and Ri Q. Wu are facing significant prison with a mandatory minimum term of incarceration. The offenses are as follows:
Criminal Tax Fraud in the First Degree, a B felony punishable by a minimum of 1 to 3 years and a maximum of 8 and 1/3 to 25 years. Criminal Tax Fraud in the Second Degree is a C felony punishable by no incarceration and up to 15 years. Criminal Tax Fraud in the Third Degree is a D felony punishable by no incarceration and up to 7 years. The dollar amount associated with these offenses closely tracks, but not precisely, the Grand Larceny statutes in relation to monetary loss. For example, like Grand Larceny in the First and Second Degrees, Criminal Tax Fraud in the First and Second Degrees requires, among other things, a fraud of $1 million and $50,000 respectively.
Time will tell what happens with these defendants and whether they put forth their best defense. Whatever they determine their strongest defense might by, they should implement that plan before they compound their already precarious situation.