Wednesday
December 9, 2009

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Bootleg cigarette tax evasion sting nets three corporations, one individual

NEW CITY – Three corporations and one individual have pled guilty to charges stemming from a bootleg cigarette sting operation that culminated in four arrests in October 2008, Rockland County DA Thomas Zugibe said.

The sting was led by the state Department of Taxation and finance and detectives from the Rockland County Special Investigations Unit.

Two of the corporate defendants, North Main Street Market, Inc., through its president, Ruben Marte of Tarrytown, and Nader Wholesale Inc., through its president, Mohsen Taskindoust of New City, east pled guilty to one count of attempted criminal possession of a forged instrument in the first degree, a felony. A third corporate defendant, North Rockland Beverage, Inc., through one of its officers, David Armstrong of Stony Point, pled guilty to one count of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree, a misdemeanor.

The fourth defendant, Mohammed Shiekh, pled guilty to one count of attempted criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree, a misdemeanor.

In April 2008, state inspectors discovered cigarettes bearing counterfeit tax stamps in retail locations in Rockland and Westchester counties.

Tax Department undercover agents began posing as cigarette smugglers and selling untaxed cigarettes to vendors in Rockland, including the four defendants.

During the transactions, defendants paid $27 to $29 per carton for unstamped cigarettes. Legitimate cigarette wholesalers outside New York City must charge a minimum state-imposed price, which at the time was $66.50 per carton.

The corporate defendants have been sentenced to civil penalties and forfeitures. They have also made payments to the state for the amounts of taxes they avoided. In total, the fined, penalties and back taxes totaled more than $370,000.

Sheikh has yet to be sentenced.

Along with the monies collected, two automobiles were seized and forfeited to Rockland County.


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