Today, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance announced the arrest of four men who were accused of possessing 1,925 cartons of untaxed cigarettes and more than 36,800 counterfeit tax stamps. Counterfeit tax stamps are used to disguise untaxed cigarettes, which can then be sold for full price in stores at a higher profit margin.
The cigarettes and tax stamps were found by Tax Department investigators during searches of an apartment, two vehicles and a rented garage. Three of the men who were arrested; Khader Awawdeh, Hakim Al-Saydi, and Dhafer Ghaleb, were charged with first degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, attempt to evade tax, possession of counterfeit stamps and unlawful possession of untaxed cigarettes. The fourth man, Fahmi Hassan, was charged with first degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. Awawdeh, Al-Saydi, Hassan, and Ghaleb are next due to appear in court on June 17.
Brad Maione, a spokesman for the Department of Taxation and Finance, said, “The presumption was that they would probably attempt to sell them at some point, but we were able to interdict them and prevent that sale.” Maione said the men “likely” got the cigarettes from an Indian reservation upstate or on Long Island. Maione said reservations are “a significant source of untaxed cigarettes.”
Maione wouldn’t disclose how the stash of illegal smokes was discovered, but he did say that Tax Department agents do “regular surveillance around the Indian reservations in Long Island and upstate New York” to identify individuals who are “buying hundreds of cartons.”
No one picked up the phone at the addresses of Awadeh, Al-Saydi and Hassan. Ghaleb’s home address is a store called Grocery Westchester, at 1781 Westchester Ave. in the Bronx. A man who answered the phone at Grocery Westchester hung up when asked about the arrests.