Untaxed Cigarette Ring Up in Smoke After 6-month Probe

Three Queens men have been arrested for engaging in the sale of untaxed cigarettes and the seizure of more than 6,700 packs of untaxed cigarettes and nearly 4,000 counterfeit tax stamps.

“Cigarette smuggling to evade state and local taxes is a multimillion dollar industry,” District Attorney Richard Brown said, “It is a highly profitable tax-free cash business…” The D.A. also pointed out that it sends taxpayers into their pockets to pay higher taxes because of lost city and state revenue from tax evasion. “It is estimated that if left unchecked, New York State and New York City could have potentially lost $800,000 each month in tax revenues,” Brown concluded.

The defendants were identified as Carlos M. Marcelino, 40, of 117-44 141st Street in South Ozone Park; Sari M. Ahmed, 35, of 101-13 Jamaica Avenue in Richmond Hill, and the store manager for Good Guys Deli, located at 102-01 Jamaica Avenue in Queens; and Sandro Balbuena, 32, of 150-06 South Road in Jamaica, who claimed he was in the process of buying G&B Deli, located at 112-31 Farmers Boulevard, also in Queens.

As part of an ongoing investigation, court-authorized search warrants were executed early last week by detectives assigned to the D.A.’s Crimes Against Revenue (CARU) Unit, State Tax investigators and the state police. At the defendant Marcelino’s residence, police allegedly recovered 2,961 packs of untaxed cigarettes, 3,928 counterfeit tax stamps (1,515 New York State tax stamps and 2,413 joint New York City/New York State tax stamps), two clothing irons that were allegedly used to affix tax stamps to packs of cigarette and $560 in cash. In executing a search warrant at a Queens storage location where Marcelino had been observed the day before, police allegedly recovered an additional 3,600 packs of untaxed cigarettes.

The three defendants were arraigned Nov. 1, before Queens Criminal Court Judge John Zoll on criminal complaints charging them with first-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and violations of New York State Tax Law 1814 (Cigarette and Tobacco Products Tax).

Marcelino was also charged with criminal possession of forg- ery devices. Bail for the three ranged from $1,500 to $10,000. Marcelino and Ahmed must return to court on Nov. 17, and Bal- buena was ordered to return on Nov. 29.

In executing a search warrant at G&B Deli, which the defen- dant Balbuena claimed he was in the process of buying, police allegedly recovered 106 packs of cigarettes bearing counterfeit tax stamps and one unstamped pack. The cigarettes were allegedly recovered from underneath a soda machine behind the sales counter, as well as from inside potato chip cans. Balbuena is currently under prosecution for selling untaxed cigarettes from G&B Deli on a prior occasion.

Finally, in executing a search warrant at Good Guys Deli, at which the defendant Ahmed is the store manager, police allegedly recovered 67 packs of cigarettes bearing counterfeit tax stamps.

It is charged that the cigarettes were discovered inside a cardboard box in the basement, from a straw container near the sales counter and from a drawer in a second cash register.

Brown said that all cigarette packages sold in New York City must bear a joint New York City/New York State tax stamp and only a licensed stamping agent can possess untaxed cigarettes and affix the tax stamp on the packages.

The arrests are just the latest results brought about by the District Attorney’s Crimes Against Revenue Unit which proactively investigates and prosecutes individuals and businesses that deliberately fail to pay tax obligations associated with legal and illegal activities. To date, more than one million untaxed cigarettes have been seized, forfeited, and surrendered this year.

If convicted, the defendants each face up to fifteen years in prison.



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