Smuggling cigarettes into New York State so as to avoid taxes is a serious criminal offense. When the smuggling and sale of untaxed cigarettes is conducted as a regular operation, further charges may ensue in addition to the basic tax fraud charges, including serious charges such as enterprise corruption, money laundering, and other crimes. Conviction may result in decades behind bars.
In recent years, New York law enforcement agencies have been particularly tough on cigarette smuggling operations, citing concerns that such operations have been used in the past to fund terrorist organizations. If indeed a link to terrorism can be proven by the government, participants in the smuggling scheme can face still further charges.
Typically, additional crimes such as enterprise corruption and money laundering are suspected when the cigarette smuggling operation is regular and high-volume. Law enforcement officers who, in the course of an investigation, discover such evidence as hundreds of thousands of cigarette cartons and fake New York State tax labels, as well as high amounts of cash, see this as a red flag for money laundering, organized crime, and potential support of criminal or terrorist groups.
In the course of investigating a large-scale cigarette smuggling operation, law enforcement agencies use various tools, including electronic surveillance, physical surveillance, and examination and analysis of financial and business records.
Any and all participants in a cigarette smuggling operation can be charged with crimes in connection with the operation, whether their role was obtaining the cigarettes, reselling them, transporting cigarettes or cash, or otherwise facilitating the illegal sale of the cigarettes and/or the laundering of the profits.
Just because cigarettes – unlike, say, heroin – are not in and of themselves illegal substances, does not mean that accusations of participating in cigarette smuggling should be taken lightly. If you or a loved one are being investigated for cigarette smuggling, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at once. Call our experienced New York criminal defense lawyers at (212) 577-6677 to schedule an immediate consultation.