2016-05-25 / Front Page

Cops Smoke Out Cigarette Tax Scam

By Liz Goff
Police who arrested a pair of Queens men for illegally distributing contraband cigarettes found more than a million of the smokes stashed in a house in Corona and an Elmhurst storage facility, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

If sold legally, the cigarettes would have generated tens of thousands of dollars in revenue for New York State, Brown said.

Ling F. Shi, 27, of Maspeth and He M. Wang, 46, of Middle Village were charged with violating the New York State cigarette and tobacco products tax law and conspiracy at their arraignment at Queens Criminal Court. Both were released without bail and are due back in court on June 7, Brown said.

Brown said police executed a search warrant at the house at 90-47 51st Street on May 16, where they found more than 3,594 cartons of cigarettes containing more than 700,000 individual cigarettes in a basement area.

Armed with a second search warrant for a 2015 Honda registered to Shi, police recovered another 150 cartons of cigarettes that contained more than 30,000 individual cigarettes, Brown said.

Cops also executed a court-ordered search warrant to search two bins at the Stop and Stor facility on Grand Avenue in Elmhurst, where they seized 62 cartons containing 12,400 cigarettes from one bin and another 1,094 cartons containing 218,800 individual cigarettes from a second bin, prosecutors said.

All cigarette packages sold in New York City must have a joint New York City/New York State tax stamp, Brown said. Only a licensed tax-stamping agent can possess untaxed cigarettes and affix the tax stamp on packages, Brown said.

“The illegal sale of untaxed cigarettes is a million dollar industry – a business venture that cheats the city and state out of much-needed revenue,” Brown said. “Schemes like the one alleged here mean every taxpayer must dig deeper to pay higher taxes.

“Each stamp on a legal pack of cigarettes represents both excise and sales tax that would have been paid to both New York State and New York City” Brown said. “The cigarettes allegedly seized in this case did not have the proper tax stamp.”

Shi and Wang are each facing seven years in prison, if convicted.

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