|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||
CONTACT: Matt Golden
|January 21, 2004||
State, Federal Agents Nab Cigarette Traffickers
TRENTON - New Jersey Treasurer John E. McCormac announced today that special agents from the State's Division of Taxation have arrested three individuals for violations related to the smuggling and sale of contraband cigarettes. Dipan Patel and Switu Shah, both of North Bergen, N.J., and Pritisha Patel, of Groton, Conn., were apprehended following a joint investigation by New Jersey Taxation agents and their counterparts at the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATFE).
The purpose of the operation was to identify "middlemen" who were purchasing contraband cigarettes and arranging for their sale to retail vendors. On January 14, officers from New Jersey Taxation and the ATFE monitored the sale of Virginia-stamped cigarettes to an undercover operative in a shopping-center parking lot on Route 46 in Totowa, N.J. During the arrest, 323 cartons of Virginia-stamped cigarettes were seized along with Dipan Patel's vehicle, a 1999 Honda Civic, and $289 in currency. In addition, a 2003 Nissan Altima was seized from Switu Shah. The vehicles, money, and cigarettes are all subject to forfeiture to the State. A previous undercover purchase from the suspects involved 50 cartons of Delaware- and Virginia-stamped cigarettes.
William McMahon, special agent in charge of the New York Field Division of ATFE, stated, "We have always enjoyed an excellent working relationship with New Jersey's Division of Taxation and, in particular, its Office of Criminal Investigation. These arrests are a testament to the successful level of cooperation that exists between our agencies."
The New Jersey Division of Taxation's Office of Criminal Investigation charged Dipan Patel with the sale of untaxed cigarettes, failure to keep records with intent to evade the cigarette tax, engaging in conduct requiring licensure, and possession of more than 20,000 untaxed cigarettes, all of which are indictable offenses. Patel, Shah, and Patel were all additionally charged with transportation and possession of contraband cigarettes, failure to provide a consumer's license, and failure to provide required invoices, all of which are disorderly persons offenses.
Judge Corridino of Totowa Municipal Court released Pritisha Patel and Switu Shah on their own recognizance but set bail at $50,000, with no 10-percent option, on Dipan Patel, who was remanded to the Passaic County Jail.
K. Thompson, director of New Jersey's Division of Taxation, praised
the agents involved in the joint operation and stated his department's
commitment to battling this type of criminal activity in New Jersey.
"We have adopted a zero-tolerance policy for retail shops that
traffic illegal cigarettes and are targeting their suppliers with great
success," Thompson said. "By aggressively pursuing those who
facilitate the sale of contraband, we are protecting the interests of
State taxpayers and residents."