21 people charged in connection with $15 million cigarette tax fraud scheme

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Police have charged 21 people for allegedly running a $15 million tax fraud scheme involving tax stamps for cigarettes.

The Bronx District Attorney's Office, along with the New York State Tax Department, Homeland Security Investigations Newark and New Jersey Treasury Office of Criminal Investigation say the 21 people involved were responsible for forging millions of cigarette tax stamps and trafficking in illegal cigarettes.

Authorities say thousands of cartons of cigarettes per week were brought from North Carolina to New York and then sold to stores throughout the metropolitan area.

"This scheme allegedly cheated the state and city out of more than $15 million in taxes in the last six months alone," Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said. "In addition, this scheme hurts law-abiding businesses that cannot compete with stores illegally selling untaxed, cheap cigarettes."

Police recovered nearly 2 million counterfeit tax stamps, a printing press, more than $120,000 in cash and records that revealed the transfer of tens of thousands of dollars out of the United States.

The defendants are variously charged with varying degrees of criminal tax fraud, money laundering, criminal possession of a forged instrument, forgery, cigarette and tobacco products tax and varying degrees of conspiracy.

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