It all went up in smoke.
Last week District Attorney Richard A. Brown unveiled the arrest of a dozen individuals, the seizure of more than 4,000 cartons of untaxed cigarettes and 22,000 untaxed cigars, and nearly $400,000 in money and property as he announced the formation of a new unit that will proactively investigate and prosecute individuals and businesses that deliberately fail to pay tax obligations associated with legal and illegal activities.
The Crimes Against Revenue Unit (CARU) “will enhance ongoing specialized efforts begun by this office in 2005, targeting tax evasion and other revenue and financial crimes, which has already returned to the state more than $5 million in sorely-needed revenues,” according to Brown, who estimated that the 12 defendants shortchanged New York State and New York City out of approximately $270,000 in tax revenue.
“This investigation targeted individuals who were bringing thousands of cigarettes from overseas with the intent of reselling them right here in New York City,” said Deputy Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York City Mona Forman. “No reporting, no taxes, no customs duties, just pure profit from the smuggler’s perspective. Cigarette smuggling can be a lucrative enterprise with the illicit proceeds used to fund other criminal behavior. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to dismantle organizations behind the illegal activity.”
Brown named Assistant District Attorney Andrew H. Kaufman as the head of CARU, which consists of two assistant district attorneys, three financial analysts, five detective-investigators, one sergeant-investigator and one paralegal. The unit is the result of state funding assistance provided to district attorneys’ offices within the 22 counties that are participating in the program.
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.
In one of the cases, for instance, it is alleged that Bobirjon S. Shakirov, 36, of 110th Street, arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport on a flight from the Republic of Uzbekistan on April 3 with 170 cartons of cigarettes (with a tax value of $10,982) in his luggage, which he did not declare on his United States Declaration form or verbally mention to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers.
Giuseppe Sciulara, 47, of Middle Village, was the subject of a long-term investigation focusing on the sale of untaxed cigarettes.
On November 22, 2010, a court-authorized search warrant was executed on Sciulara’s residence and garage, his 2002 Ford Explorer and a storage location on Metropolitan Avenue. It is alleged that more than eight master cases (each containing 60 cartons) of various cigarette brands, all having what appeared to be a Commonwealth of Virginia tax stamps on the carton packages, were recovered from the garage, a total of 566 cartons from his residence, 25 cartons from his vehicle and four empty half case cardboard boxes from the storage location. In addition, it is alleged that investigations recovered two bags containing a total of $45,620 in cash, a loaded .25 caliber handgun, assorted rounds of ammunition and a “BB” gun.