KINGS COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY CHARLES J.
HYNES ANNOUNCES 23 ARRESTS FOR DISTRIBUTING 550 CASES OF
UNTAXED CIGARETTES, EVADING OVER $2 MILLION IN CITY AND
HALF OF ALL CIGARETTES SOLD IN NEW YORK
CITY ARE UNTAXED, COSTING THE CITY OVER HALF A BILLION
DOLLARS IN TAX REVENUE EACH YEAR
Brooklyn, February 29, 2012 – Kings County
District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, today announced the
arrest of 23 people as the result of “Operation Buttlegger”,
an eight-month investigation conducted by the Money
Laundering and Revenue Crimes Bureau targeting distributers
of untaxed cigarettes. District Attorney Hynes thanked the
Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,
the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia and the
Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia for assisting
in the investigation. Two of the defendants were also
charged with robbery.
All cigarettes sold in New York City
must bear a joint New York City/New York State tax stamp.
Only licensed stamping agents can possess untaxed cigarettes
and affix the stamps on the packages.
The average price of a carton of cigarettes purchased
legally in New York City is $120-$150. Untaxed, illegal
cigarettes can be sold on the black market for $30-$50 per
carton. According to New York City Department of Finance,
half of all the cigarettes sold in the City are untaxed and
as a result of the sale of untaxed cigarettes in New York
City alone, over a half a billion dollars in tax revenue is
lost each year.
“I want to send a clear message that
tax cheats, no matter how they try to deprive the citizens
of this state of legitimate revenue, they will be arrested
and prosecuted,” said District Attorney Hynes. “Since this
investigation is not over, others who believe that they are
above the law and seek to evade cigarette taxes, should take
heed of what happened to these defendants.”
Under “Operation Buttlegger” Detective
Investigators from the District Attorney’s Office posed as
sellers of black-market cigarettes. Based on information
informants, they sold over 550 cases of untaxed cigarettes,
with a retail value of $4,290,000.
Mamadou Barry, 34, and Ching Chung Lam,
46, each purchased 100 cases (60 cartons per case, 10 packs
per carton) from undercover agents.
On September 22, 2011, Barry paid
$239,880 cash, which he handed over in a garbage bag. Lam
was arrested on February 17, 2011, after giving an
undercover detective a grocery bag full of $179,880 in cash.
During the investigation, detectives
contracted with Meshulam Rothschild, 46, and three others,
to purchase untaxed cigarettes from Virginia, along with
10,800 counterfeit Virginia tax stamps to affix to the
cigarette packages. Rothschild had access to a warehouse at
81 Spencer Street, where the contraband was delivered.
Working with the Federal ATF and the Shenandoah County
Sheriff’s Office, KCDA investigators arrested Rothschild,
Nasmi Havolli, 51, his son, Nart Havolli, 20, and nephew,
Blerim Havolli, 24.
Rothschild, Nasmi Havolli and his nephew were charged
with a top count of Criminal Possession of a Forged
Instrument in the First Degree, and face up to 15 years in
prison if convicted.
Nart Havolli is charged with a tax violation.
Defendants Gani Hodja, 25, and Abdul
Herkash, 43, arranged to meet with investigators on December
22, 2011 to purchase black market cigarettes. An informant
working with the detectives drove a van to meet the
defendants and deliver the contraband. When he arrived, the
defendants allegedly maced the informant and carjacked the
Detectives apprehended Hodja and Herkash with the van and
They were indicted for charges including Robbery in the
First Degree, Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Assault in
the Second Degree, Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the
Fourth Degree and tax code violations.
If convicted, they face 25 years in prison.
Another defendant, Usama Abdo, 35,
offered to sell over 60 cases of counterfeit cigarettes to a
Counterfeit cigarettes may contain toxins that pose
additional health risks to consumers, since it is unknown
where and how these cigarettes were manufactured. The
Detective Investigators seized the cigarettes. Abdo is
charged with Trademark Counterfeiting in the Second Degree,
felony possession of untaxed cigarettes and other charges.
If convicted, he faces 1-3 years in prison.
Additional information was gathered as
a result of this seizure and was turned over to the New
Jersey State Police and Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.
The New Jersey authorities seized a truck full of
counterfeit clothing, cigars, cigarettes and drug
Ali Ahmed, 48, was arrested on February
27, 2012 at the Rio Deli and Grocery at 3678 Norstrand
Avenue. He was
allegedly selling bootlegged cigarettes out of the deli,
which he owns. Nabil Zayed, 39, was arrested at his deli,
the 8 Star Food Corp., 8 Saratoga Avenue, where he was
allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.
Also on February 27, 2012, Ahmed Almhen, 46, was
arrested at the Smart 1 Deli, 3325 Snyder Avenue, which he
allegedly owned and used to sell contraband cigarettes.
They are charged with tax violations.
In addition to these defendants, 11
others have been arrested and charged with crimes including
possession of untaxed cigarettes, tax violations and
criminal possession of forged instruments, specifically,
counterfeit tax stamps. More arrests are expected as the
investigation is ongoing.
An indictment is an accusatory
instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.
George Terra is the Assistant Chief
Investigator, Special Investigations Unit. Joseph Ponzi is
Chief of Investigations.
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Joel
Dowling and Denis Brogan of the Money Laundering and Revenue
Joseph McCarthy, Executive Assistant District Attorney,
Money Laundering & Revenue Crimes Bureau.
Gregory Mitchel is the Bureau Chief of the Money
Laundering and Revenue Crimes Bureau.
Steven Kramer, Counsel, Money Laundering & Revenue
Michael Vecchione is Chief of the Rackets Division.
KINGS COUNTY DISTRICT
ATTORNEY CHARLES J. HYNES AND MEDGAR EVERS COLLEGE PRESIDENT
WILLIAM L. POLLARD UNVEIL PROCLAMATION ANNOUNCING ANNUAL
SYMPOSIUM ON THE IMPACT OF RACE AND LAW ON SOCIETY
POLITICAL AND COMMUNITY
LEADERS JOIN COMMUNITY IN RECOGNIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF
SYMPOSIUM, WHICH WILL TAKE PLACE EVERY FEBRUARY COINCIDING
WITH BLACK HISTORY MONTH
February 23, 2012 – Kings County District Attorney
Charles J. Hynes and Medgar Evers College President William
L. Pollard unveiled a proclamation agreeing to establish an
annual symposium focusing on racial issues and the law, and
their impact on American society.
They were joined by political and community leaders,
pastors and members of the community in announcing the
annual event which will take place every February coinciding
with Black History Month.
The symposium will take place every year at Medgar
Evers College and include a series of discussions designed
to educate the community, focusing on the connection between
race and emerging trends or public policies in the areas of
criminal and social justice, civil rights, diversity in the
legal profession and law enforcement and education.
District Attorney Hynes said, “I believe it is
important to educate the community concerning issues such as
race and discrimination and their impact on law and society.
And it is important to reach people at an early age
to steer them in the right direction.
We have come a long way in the fight against
discrimination but it still exists in our society.
One of the goals of the symposiums is educating the
community, especially our youth about their history and
civic responsibility, and how to use the court system to
bring about change.
It will enable them to not only better themselves but
to also make a positive impact on society.”
Medgar Evers President William L. Pollard said, “I’m
excited that we will be able to provide our students and the
public with a forum for critical discussions on the
intersection of history, discrimination, the law, and social
justice. We want to foster people’s interest in and use of
the political and social tools available to them to bring
about the kinds of change that will improve our communities.
And by combining the wealth of experience and the resources
of the District Attorney’s office with our own, we will be
able to engage people in a thought-provoking and
The idea for the symposiums came about when
participants of the DA’s Office’s Youth and Congregations in
Partnership (YCP) program created a documentary titled
“Slavery and the Law”, which was screened at Medgar
Evers College in November 2011.
The documentary shows the Brooklyn teens creating a
mural while learning about the history of slavery and the
different laws that were passed, first allowing slavery,
then abolishing it, and how history shaped public policy.
The students learned about the Underground Railroad,
Jim Crow laws and the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education
Supreme Court decision which declared state-sponsored school
The documentary was funded by a grant from the
The symposiums will be an annual discussion where important
issues such as racial injustice and the criminal justice
system are discussed, people in the community could be
educated about their history and how it shaped current
society, and they could come up with solutions to solve
problems that affect society today.
Featured speakers each year will include professors,
lawyers, historians, public policymakers and experts in a
wide variety of fields.
District Attorney Hynes is re-issuing his book
“Incident at Howard Beach” which details the 1986 hate crime
murder case in which three African American men were chased
by a large group of teen thugs, leading to the brutal
assault of one victim and the death of another.
The royalties from the sales of the re-issued book
will go to funding the annual symposium.
KINGS COUNTY DISTRICT
ATTORNEY CHARLES J. HYNES ANNOUNCES SCREENING OF DOCUMENTARY
FILM ON GUN VIOLENCE
IT TO THE GAME
PRODUCED BY DA’S
YCP PROGRAM WILL BE
SCREENED AT NYC INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL ON FEBRUARY 20
Brooklyn, February 6,
2012 – Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes
announced today that Charge it to the Game, a
documentary film created by the District Attorney’s YCP
(Youth and Congregations in Partnership) program, will be
screened at the NYC Downtown Feature Film Festival on
Monday, February 20 at 8:00 PM at the Duo Multicultural Arts
Center, at 62 East 4th Street in Manhattan.
selected by the Film Festival from many entries, addresses
the effects of gun violence in Brooklyn, especially among
young people. Directed by Joseph Rodman, the film opens
with the striking statistic that approximately every two
days a life is taken by gun violence in Brooklyn. Charge
it to the Game details the consequences of gun violence
on the families of both the shooter and the victim with
interviews from members of the community who have been
affected. Funded by the Robin Hood Foundation, the film
also examines what can be done to curb this problem.
“It is very
important that we as a community memorialize the victims of
gun violence and urge others to address this tragedy,” said
DA Hynes. “We must do more to remove guns – the instruments
of death in Brooklyn – from the streets by whatever lawful
means possible. I am proud that this film was selected to
be screened at the NYC Film Festival so that more people can
understand the depth of the problem of gun violence.
Hopefully this will encourage people to take action and help
us get guns off the streets.” Youth gun violence is a major
problem in the United States and and in Brooklyn. Nearly 30
percent of all homicide offenders are between the ages of 17
has been shown all across Brooklyn at schools, churches and
community centers. YCP is a community-based intervention
program, promoting rehabilitation and the reduction of
recidivism among Brooklyn court involved and at-risk youth.
This objective is accomplished by providing comprehensive
services including mentoring and counseling, and through
collaborations with community partners. Senior Deputy
District Attorney Joan Gabbidon is Executive Director of the
purchase tickets in advance for $5.00 by going to
www.smarttix.com or you can purchase tickets at the door
on the day of the event for $10.00.
Contact: Sandy Silverstein