Blog

Rich Marianos

Apparent Robbery Gone Bad Leads to Tobacco Trafficking Offender

Richard Marianos
Assistant Director - Retired
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive
s

Last week, local, state and federal authorities arrested Merysol Mendez-Reyes of Newark, N.J., following a reported carjacking and shots fired call.  

Upon further investigation, authorities uncovered that Mendez-Reyes, first reported as a victim of attempted carjacking in this case, was involved in a scheme to traffic over 75,000 counterfeit tobacco stamps, along with 400 cartons of cigarettes from Virginia.
 
Mendez-Reyes was charged with seven counts related to having counterfeit stamps, contraband cigarettes, and distribution of the items. 
Congratulations to law enforcement officials for a job well done.
 
Find the original article here.

Two Queens, New York men arrested and charged with criminal cigarette trafficking

Richard Marianos
Assistant Director - Retired
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive
s

Two men from Maspeth and Middle Village, New York are facing jail time for having almost one million illegal cigarettes in their possession, according to court documents and a press release from the Queens District Attorney. The defendants are identified as Ling F. Shi, 27, of 52nd Road in Maspeth, and He M. Wang, 46, of Dry Harbor Road in Middle Village.

Further information in these documents explained that police executed a search warrant on Monday, May 16, on a house located at 90-47 51st Avenue, Elmhurst, New York where they allegedly found more than 3,594 cartons of cigarettes, containing more than 700,000 individual cigarettes in the basement.  From this, additional search warrants were obtained for a 2015 Honda registered to Shi, which allegedly uncovered roughly 150 cartons that contained more than 30,000 individual cigarettes.  Also uncovered at this time were receipts for two storage units at the Stop and Store facility at 74-04 Grand Ave.
 
Upon obtaining a third search warrant for the storage units, police found 62 cartons, containing 12,400 individual cigarettes from one storage bin and another 1,094 cartons containing 218,800 individual cigarettes from the second bin.
 
Ok…Here comes the big surprise…………………………..
 
None of the cigarettes seized from the house, car or storage facility were in packs that had a New York State cigarette tax stamp.
 
According to Queens District Attorney Robert Brown, “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. 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. The cigarettes allegedly seized in this case did not have the proper tax stamp.”
 
Shi and Wang were both arraigned in Queens Criminal Court and charged with violating the state’s cigarette and tobacco products tax law and fifth-degree conspiracy. If convicted, the defendants face up to seven years in prison.
 

Is Criminal Tobacco trafficking profitable? Just ask Derek…………….

Richard Marianos
Assistant Director - Retired
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive
s

Quebec:

Last month, NASCAR driver Derek White was arrested for his alleged connections to the largest tobacco product smuggling operation in North American history.
 
White, 45, is believed by authorities to be a high ranking member of this smuggling operation.  The smugglers used Interstate 95, “The New Tobacco Road,” to obtain tobacco products from North Carolina and illegally traffic them north to Canada. The profits from the illicit sales were then used to purchase cocaine according to police.
 
The investigation, which began in 2014, identified more than 65 locations in both Ontario and Quebec, and involved over 700 law enforcement officers - both Canadian and US.
 
According to law enforcement, 52,800 kilograms of tobacco, 836 kilograms of cocaine, 21 kilograms of methamphetamine and 35 pounds of marijuana were seized.
 
Nearly 60 arrests were made in all.
 
So, who says organized crime has no interest in smuggling tobacco products? The evidence, which in this case is more than 1600 pounds of cocaine, tells us that drug cartels do.

Midwest trafficking corridors begin to open up

Richard Marianos
Assistant Director - Retired
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive
s

St. Louis:

The lucrative criminal enterprise of smuggling cigarettes appears to be expanding its territory outside of the I-95 corridor as evidenced by the following indictment involving the Mid-West region of the country.
 
Fourteen people were recently indicted, accused of a “large-scale multi-million dollar” conspiracy to smuggle cigarettes from low tax states such as Missouri and Georgia to sell in New York state.
 
The indictment alleges that the conspirators purchased cigarettes in the low tax areas of St. Louis and St. Louis County where taxes range from .22 to .24 cents per pack in comparison to New York where state and local taxes are almost $6 dollars per pack.
 
This specific scheme is reported to have defrauded New York of over $20 million dollars in tax revenue. According to court documents the individuals involved in this conspiracy were from the New York, Missouri and Atlanta areas. 
 
This is further proof of what I have been saying for many years now: The “New Tobacco Road” spans from Main Street all the way to Wall Street, and every state in the nation may be affected by illicit tobacco smuggling along the way.
 
 
http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/feds-missouri-new-york-cigarette-smuggling-ring-dodged-million-in/article_006660a9-4c5d-5377-b808-1a38cd76f9e8.html

Multi state Conspiracy busted by Narcotics Task Force

Richard Marianos
Assistant Director - Retired
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive
s

Northern Virginia:

 
Trafficking contraband cigarettes, conspiracy, and witness tampering are the charges facing two Jordanian citizens after they were arrested in New Jersey this week for defrauding the Commonwealth of Virginia of over 9.5 million dollars.
 
Laila Alayat, along with her partner Eyad Salahedin, were arrested by members of a Northern Virginia Narcotics Task Force working in conjunction with investigators from the New Jersey Tax Administration.
 
The scam uncovered was a simple one; buy cigarettes in Virginia under a fraudulent business license and pay zero Virginia tax. The  partners then sell these cigarettes in northern states along Interstate I-95 and make millions.
 
What this criminal enterprise did not bargain for was their operations, using tobacco as a commodity in a black market exchange, being caught on the radar of a narcotics task force.
 

Tobacco crimes being committed by “organized criminals” connected to drug crimes, wow, I’ve heard that before…………

http://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/article_ceb1492b-3d20-5460-a83b-a41285192b34.html 

$1,922,608,709

Revenue lost to black market cigarettes so far this year

get involved

contact your representative

The MacKinac study "Cigarette Taxes and Smuggling" shows the strong correlation between high cigarette taxes and smuggling, theft and other violent crimes.