From: North Country Gazette
NASSAU COUNTY—A year-long multi-agency investigation into the illegal trafficking of untaxed cigarettes concluded with the arrest of five defendants and the seizure of more than 100 cases of cigarettes and more than $958,000 in cash.
Prosecutors said that beginning in July 2011, a confidential informant began working with the DA’s Office, the New York Police Department, and the Queens DA’s Office, on a joint investigation into the illegal sale of untaxed cigarettes.
Posing as somebody with access to untaxed and unstamped cigarettes at a reasonable price, an undercover police officer sold Duan Jun Zhang hundreds of cases of untaxed cigarettes on ten occasions in Florida and in Nassau County. Each case contains 60 cartons of cigarettes.
Zhang, 38, ofElmhurst, paid a total of $1.8 million for the cigarettes, prosecutors said.
The undercover officer also sold untaxed cigarettes on multiple occasions to Fei Yin, 24, of Bayside’ Maerong Gao, 57, of Flushing; Wai Ming Lui, 46, of Flushing and Sauha Candy Lam, 35, of Flushing.
A majority of the sales to the five defendants took place from a storage unit on Stewart Avenue in Garden City, prosecutors said. The five defendants paid more than $2.3 million for about 1,200 cases of untaxed cigarettes worth more than $6.4 million during the course of the investigation.
The defendants then transported the cigarettes to residences in Queens and Brooklyn and sold them to local retailers or on the street.
A properly taxed carton of cigarettes in New York is about $90. The defendants were paying approximately $32 per carton, representing a potential loss to New York taxpayers of $3 million.
Each defendant was arrested Wednesday and is charged with evasion of cigarette and tobacco product tax, a class E felony. They face up to four years in prison if convicted. 7-24-12