Quantcast

Woodhaven couple busted selling untaxed cigarettes

A Woodhaven couple - from whose store cops allegedly seized more than 750 cartons of illegal, untaxed cigarettes - has been arrested for allegedly engaging in their sale.
“Cigarette bootlegging is a multi-million dollar business that rips off the public both by flooding the marketplace with inferior products - oftentimes containing dangerously high levels of tar and nicotine - while at the same time fueling an underground economy that does not pay much-needed state and local sales taxes,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown.
Masoom Uddin, 57, and his wife, Khaleda Uddin, 36, of 86-19 103rd Avenue, who own The Video Shop, located at 101st Avenue and 76th Street in South Ozone Park, were arraigned on Saturday, August 23, before Queens Criminal Court Judge Dorothy Chin-Brandt. The complaint charged each of them with 3,760 counts of first-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and three counts of violating the New York State tax law.
Judge Chin-Brandt set bail for each defendant at $20,000 (with a bail sufficiency hearing). The defendants, who face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, were ordered to return to court on September 5.
The investigation began on August 12, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at John F. Kennedy International Airport intercepted at least 15 cartons of untaxed cigarettes from Karachi, Pakistan. Each carton was individually wrapped in cellophane and contained no tax stamps. The mail package allegedly listed the name and home address of Masoom Uddin as the recipient of the cigarettes.
According to the charges, a U.S. Postal Inspector, acting in an undercover capacity, delivered the cigarette cartons to Uddin’s residence on the morning of Friday, August 22. It is alleged that Masoom Uddin answered the door, stated the package was for him and signed for the cartons. Later that day, court-authorized search warrants were executed at the Uddins’ residence and their place of business.
“Let these arrests serve as a warning to others who think they can use the U.S. Mail as a component of their illegal enterprises,” said U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge of the N.Y. Division, Ronald J. Verrochio. “Just like today’s defendants, their ill-gotten gains will eventually go up in smoke.
At the time the warrants were being executed it is alleged that Masoom Uddin was observed in the rear of his residence attempting to enter a 2007 Acura MDX that contained a plastic bag holding seven cartons of counterfeit stamped cigarettes. An additional 700 cartons of untaxed cigarettes - more than half of which contained forged tax stamps - were allegedly recovered from two upstairs bedrooms. Additional cartons and loose packs of untaxed cigarettes were recovered from the Uddins’ video store.
The district attorney 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. Stamping agents use a stamping machine that affixes the tax stamp on the individual cigarette packs. Legal cigarette cartons that are being sent to a licensed stamping agent, the district attorney noted, are not wrapped in cellophane.
At the time of his arrest, Masoom Uddin allegedly told investigators, “If somebody comes to me to sell me these cigarettes cheap, why shouldn’t I sell them to make money?”

More from Around New York