By Bill Parry
A Little Neck man and his two sons were arrested last week when a multi-state cigarette smuggling ring was dismantled following a long-term law enforcement investigation, according to the Queens District Attorney’s office.
Nicholas Galafano, 56, and his sons Yaseen Galafano, 22, and Musa Galafano, 25, of 248th Street, were among eight individuals from Queens, Long Island, Brooklyn and Virginia that were charged with grand larceny, conspiracy and other crimes for operating the ring that cheated the city out of nearly a million dollars in uncollected cigarette tax revenue, according to District Attorney Richard Brown.
The defendants were arraigned Sept. 25 before Queens Criminal Court Judge Toni Cimino, who released them on their own recognizance and ordered the defendants to return to court Nov. 27.
According to the complaint, Nicholas Galafano, in 2018 alone, allegedly purchased more than 37,000 cartons of cigarettes from co-defendant, Nasi Jafri, 43, of Chantilly, Va. Jafri bought the untaxed cigarettes from big box stores in Virginia and Maryland and drove them to New York and delivered them to Galafano, who then resold them with counterfeit New York state tax stamps to father-and-son store owners in Brooklyn, Ahmad Abualrub, 61, and Hasan Abualrub, 18, of Brighton Beach.
Prosecutors say Nicholas Galafano and business partner Beatrice Villafane, 46, of Hempstead, L.I., laundered the revenue they received from the sale of the untaxed cigarettes. They deposited more than a million dollars in proceeds into bank accounts.
Through an investigation, the Cigarette Strike Force executed court-authorized search warrants executed Sept. 24, at Galafano’s Little Neck home and recovered 6,267 cartons of untaxed cigarettes and $2.3 million in illegal proceeds, including more than $200,000 in cash.
“The defendants in this case are modern-day bootleggers who allegedly peddled untaxed cigarettes to enrich themselves,” Brown said. “This smuggling ring raked in millions of dollars a the expense of New Yorkers. Purchasing cheaper cigarettes from out of state and applying counterfeit tax stamps on them cheats both the state and city out of much-needed tax revenue. The defendants now face prison time as a result of their alleged greed.”
Brown said all cigarette packages sold in New York City must bear a joint New York City and New York state tax stamp and only a licensed stamping agent can possess untaxed cigarettes and affix the tax stamp on the packages. Each tax stamp includes a unique number.
If convicted, the defendants face between eight to 30 years in prison, according to the DA’s office.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr