A TWENTY ONE MILLION DOLLAR CIGARETTE TAX STAMP FRAUD INVESTIGATION RESULTS IN TWENTY TWO ARRESTS

 

THE OPERATION SEIZED OVER ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND COUNTERFEIT

 TAX STAMPS

 

THE Multi-agency effort ALSO CONFISCATED 14 rifles, A PUMP ACTION shotgun,

AND FIVE SUSPECTED EXPLOSIVE DEVICES

 

 

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, New York State Taxation and Finance Acting Commissioner Jamie Woodward and Yonkers Police Commissioner Edmund Hartnett announced that a year long investigation utilizing a multi-agency, multi-jurisdiction undercover operation carried out by the New York State Office of Tax Enforcement, Yonkers Police Department, New York City Police Department and Westchester County District Attorney’s office  in which sales and purchases of more than nine million unstamped cigarettes resulted in a twenty one million dollar New York State cigarette excise tax stamp fraud and 21 individuals being arrested.

 

Also uncovered in the course of the investigation, an individual was arrested in the possession of five suspected home made explosive devices, fourteen rifles, a pump action shotgun and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

 

On multiple occasions the defendants spent over sixteen million dollars purchasing the unstamped cigarettes from undercover New York State Tax Investigators.

 

The illegal purchases resulted in over twenty one million dollars of lost excise and sales tax revenue to New York State and New York City.

 

The defendants, acting as middlemen, would then resell the unstamped cigarettes at a sizable profit to small businesses for individual sale.

 

The investigation was based on information, developed from a Confidential Informant by the Office of Tax Enforcement of the New York State Taxation and Finance Department, that the defendant’s were looking to illegally purchase cigarettes on the black market.

 

During the course of the investigation, the investigative team made contact with approximately 60 targets and represented they had access to unstamped cigarettes for sale. 

 

All of the subjects have purchased illegal cigarettes, never paying the $42.50 excise tax or the sales tax on the cigarette cartons and never reporting the purchases or sales to the State. They would routinely purchase hundreds of cartons of unstamped cigarettes at a time.

 

Charged are:

 

  • Ali M. Abadi (DOB 9/25/58) 211 W. 149th St., New York, New York
  • Ibrahim A. Ahmad       (DOB 8/1/67) 696 Rhinelander Ave.  Bronx, NY
  • Mohamed Ahmed (DOB 11/3/58) 673 Degraw Street, Brooklyn, NY                                
  • Omar Nagib Ali (DOB 4/24/73) 419 50th St., Lindenhurst, NY                                         
  • Ibrahim Althnaibat (DOB 9/10/60) Willow Street, Yonkers, NY                           
  • Jamil H. Alzokari (DOB 1/1/1969) 6706 11th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY                                 
  • Mohamed A. Benkhiyar (DOB 2/2/70) 918 Fulton St. Brooklyn, NY
  • Ahmad Aldabesheh (DOB 5/15/62) 252 Buttrick Avenue Bronx, NY
  • Yin Sin Wu (DOB 12/18/82)  1132 South 10th Street, Philadelphia, PA
  • Obrero Barrio (DOB 10/8/57) No Address
  • Andre Ford (DOB 3/14/86) 189-02 64th Avenue, Fresh Meadows, NY
  • Ronald Everett (DOB 12/22/61) 128-14 140 St., Jamaica, NY                  
  • Przaemyslw S. Holynski (DOB 11/25/72)192-20 64 Ave, Corona, NY                   
  • Alou Keita (DOB 3/5/78) 996 Tinton Ave. Bronx, NY
  • Mohamed Lemine Ould Sidi (DOB 6/23/70) 1023 Rev. James Ave., Bronx, NY
  • Henry Polanco  (DOB 5/3/60) 1504 Sheridan Ave. Bronx, NY
  • Abdo Quhshi  (DOB 5/3/62) 62 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, NY                               
  • Norman A. Saif (DOB 8/8/59) 16 Welcome Way, Hampton, VA
  • Mohamed O. Salick (DOB 1/3/76) No Address                                                  
  • John Taveras  (DOB 10/26/71) 30 Richman Plz. Bronx, NY
  • Ri Q. Wu (DOB 4/12/56) 1132 South 10th Street, Philadelphia, PA

 

The Felony charges that each may face can include:

 

  • Criminal Tax Fraud in the First Degree, a class “B” Felony,
  • Criminal Tax Fraud in the Second Degree, a class “C” Felony,
  • Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, in the First Degree, a class “C” Felony,
  • Criminal Tax Fraud in the Third Degree, a class “D” Felony,
  • Possession or Transport of Thirty Thousand or more or Unlawfully Stamped Cigarettes for the Purpose of  Sale, a class “D” Felony a violation of New York State Tax Law,
  • Attempt to Evade or Defeat the Taxes Imposed by Article 20 of the Tax Law of the State of New York, a class “E” Felony,
  • Possession or Transport of Ten Thousand or more or Unlawfully Stamped Cigarettes for the Purpose of Sale, a class “E” Felony a violation of New York State Tax Law.

 

Individuals charged in this investigation, for the first time, will be under new enhanced New York State laws expressly targeting these tax crimes.

 

Also charged is:

 

  • Gary Burstell (DOB 11/06/56) 55 Lockwood Road, Cortlandt Manor, NY with one count of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree, a class “D” Felony.

 

Warrants were executed at various locations in the New York Metropolitan Area resulting in the closure of a fraudulent tax stamping operation being run out of a storage facility in the Bronx.

 

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. 

 

New York State Office of Tax Enforcement, Yonkers Police Department Intelligence Unit, New York City Police Department Intelligence Division, Westchester County Police Bomb Squad and Westchester County District Attorney’s office participated in various aspects of the investigation.

 

Arraignments are pending.

 

Burstell faces a maximum of seven years in state prison.

 

The other defendants face a maximum of eight and one third to twenty five years in state prison.

 

Assistant District Attorney Steven Vandervelden, Chief of the Organized Crime and Criminal Enterprise Bureau and Assistant District Attorney Michael Curti, of the Organized Crime and Criminal Enterprise Bureau, will prosecute the case.

 

 

 

 

in compliance with Disciplinary Rule 7-107A of the Code of

Professional Responsibility, you are advised that a charge is

merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed

innocent until and unless proven guilty.