By Rich Bockmann
Everyone knows smoking kills, but red-hot hotel rates can also be hazardous to one’s health, the borough’s top prosecutor says.
Authorities trying to snuff out the black-market cigarette trade in Flushing stumbled upon a two-family house that was allegedly turned into an illegal, 15-room hotel offering cut-rate deals to Asian tourists, the Queens district attorney said.
“While investigating allegations of illegal cigarettes being sold out of one location in Flushing, detectives assigned to my office noticed unusual activity at the house next door — numerous people entering and leaving the premises with suitcases,” District Attorney Richard Brown said. “Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the high-traffic house was being advertised as a hotel on Chinese language websites. I would like to commend my detectives for their sharp observations as numerous alleged building violations were discovered, making the premises dangerous to both occupants and, in case of an emergency, first responders.”
Detectives investigating illegal, untaxed cigarettes that were allegedly flowing out of a house on Saull Street in Flushing noticed that the two-family home next door had an unusual amount of visitors carrying luggage, Brown said.
Investigators found the residential house was allegedly advertised on a number of websites, including chinatowninus.com as a 15-room lodge with rooms ranging from $60 a night for one person to $90 a night for four guests, the DA said.
Qiumin He, 55; his wife Chun Y Tu, 56; and their son Xiaoshan He, 34, were arrested on charges of reckless endangerment, Brown said.
“Illegal conversions can kill — and any property owner who puts lives in danger in order to line their own pockets must be held accountable,” Brown said. “These charges send a clear message that our law enforcement partners are cracking down on the creation of illegal units, and there are serious consequences for putting the safety of New Yorkers at risk.”
The family’s neighbor, 50-year-old Qinghai Wei, was arrested on charges of violating the state’s cigarette and tobacco tax law, Brown said.
“Selling illegal and untaxed cigarettes is a highly profitable tax-free cash business for those involved in it, but it cheats taxpayers and it cheats the government out of much-needed state and city revenue,” the DA added. “And in this case, it is alleged, Asian cigarettes that are illegal to sell in the United States because they do not carry the surgeon general’s warning were also recovered.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.