Strike Force arrests two, seizes $130,000 in cash and thousands of counterfeit stamps
The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance said that on June 3rd it has seized 3,236 cartons of contraband cigarettes in Brooklyn, along with 3,795 counterfeit tax stamps and more than $130,000 in cash.
The Department’s Cigarette Strike Force arrested two New Yorkers in the process. They were identified as Ji Long Chen, 37, of 1867 Shore Parkway and Mohamed A. Kassim, 27, of 85 Eastern Parkway, both in Brooklyn.
Chen was charged with four felonies, including criminal tax fraud, and the possession and transport for sale of illegal cigarettes. Kassim was charged with the possession or transport for sale of unstamped or unlawfully stamped cigarettes. Both defendants were taken to Brooklyn’s 62nd Precinct and released on their own recognizance. A date for their next appearance has yet to be set. The case will be prosecuted by the Kings County District Attorney’s Office.
“Our initiative with local law enforcement is paying off by combatting the trafficking, storage, and sale of contraband cigarettes clearly” said Commissioner Thomas H. Mattox.
Department investigators seized nearly 800 of the total haul of 3,236 Virginia-stamped cartons at 940 43rd Street in Brooklyn, a location identified as a “stash house” where they also discovered 3,795 counterfeit New York State and New York City tax stamps. Kassim was arrested at this address.
Chen, however, was followed to his Shore Parkway home where investigators found the rest of the cigarettes as well as $75,000 in cash. Acting on a search warrant, they later searched two bank safe deposit boxes in Manhattan and seized additional cash possibly earned through illegal cigarette sales, bringing the total to $131,763.
A criminal complaint is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.