Ridgewood man charged in cigarette tax scheme

Photo courtesy NYPD 102nd Precinct on Twitter

Photo courtesy NYPD 102nd Precinct on Twitter

A Ridgewood man is accused of engaging in the illegal distribution of untaxed cigarettes that would have generated nearly $500,000 in revenue for New York State. According to Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown, Ayad Sharhan, 34, of Cornelia Street, faces up to 15 years in prison.

“Cigarette smuggling to evade sales taxes is a multimillion dollar industry,” Brown said. “It is a highly profitable tax-free, cash business for those involved in it. But selling untaxed cigarettes cheats taxpayers who must dip deeper into their pockets and pay higher taxes.”

According to Brown, a court-authorized search warrant was executed on Feb. 26, 2016 in a garage located at 101-09 97th Ave., in Woodhaven, Queens. Inside the garage, police recovered 60,000 fraudulent cigarette tax stamps as well as an iron that they suspect was used to affix the stamps onto cigarette packs. Also seized, were a total of approximately 279,000 cigarettes, which, if lawfully sold, would have generated $493,000 in tax revenue for New York State.

“Each stamp on a lawfully stamped pack of cigarettes represents both excise and sales tax that would have been paid to New York State and New York City,” Brown said. “Consequently, in this particular case, the alleged counterfeit stamps and cigarettes seized represent a potential loss of approximately $493,000 in tax revenue.”

Sharhan was arraigned on a criminal charge of first-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, criminal possession of forgery devices, cigarette and tobacco products tax/attempt to evade or defeat tax, cigarette and tobacco products tax and possession or transportation of untaxed cigarettes with intent to sell before Queens Criminal Court Judge Peter Vallone. He was released on his own recognizance and ordered to return to court on March 21.