|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||
CONTACT: Matt Golden
|April 13, 2004||
Taxation Agents Uncover Cigarette Trafficking Operation
TRENTON - New Jersey Treasurer John E. McCormac announced today that special agents from the Division of Taxation's Office of Criminal Investigation recently seized 14,757 cartons of contraband cigarettes while arresting Lan Zhang and Min Yu, both of Elmhurst, N.Y., on charges of violating the New Jersey Cigarette Tax Act and possession of counterfeit trademark products.
The seized contraband consisted of counterfeit Newport brand cigarettes as well as illegally imported Chinese and British brands. Two Toyota vans, which also contained Virginia-stamped cigarettes and over $550 in currency, were also confiscated. The contraband cigarettes were valued at approximately $856,053, and the total averted tax loss to the State of New Jersey was $353,881.
Taxation Director Robert K. Thompson explained that Zhang and Yu were apprehended at the U-Store-It facility on Mallory Avenue in Jersey City, N.J., as they loaded the vans with cases of counterfeit cigarettes on April 7, 2004. The subjects had been observed removing the contraband from a rented storage unit. Agents later discovered a second storage area containing additional contraband cigarettes elsewhere on the premises.
The arrests resulted from an investigation of reported cigarette trafficking in Hudson County. Forensic tests conducted by the Taxation agents at the scene confirmed that the trademark holder, Lorrilard of Greensboro, N.C., did not manufacture the Newport cigarettes.
Director Thompson credited the agents for their outstanding work and for " protecting the interests of New Jersey taxpayers." He added, "Our enforcement initiatives are many and ongoing. We have enhanced our efforts toward combating this type of illegal activity and are aggressively prosecuting those involved in the smuggling of contraband cigarettes."
Both Zhang and Yu have been charged with possession and transportation of the contraband cigarettes, operating without a license, failure to produce invoices, failure to file reports with intent to evade the cigarette tax, and possession of counterfeit trademark products.
Jersey City Municipal Judge Vincent Signoreli set cash bail at $100,000
for each defendant. Both subjects were processed and remanded to the
Hudson County Jail pending their first appearance before the court.