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Ozone Pk. family charged in cigarette smuggle scam

Police confiscated $16,000 in cash and more than 1,200 cartons of stolen and fake cigarettes during a raid last week on a triple-decker house in Ozone Park, the Queens district attorney said Friday.

DA Richard Brown, along with officials from the state Department of Taxation and Finance, announced the seizure Sept. 25 from a family of three living at 95-08 85th St. Authorities also seized two vehicles allegedly used in the scheme.

“Cigarette smuggling to evade state and city taxes is a multimillion-dollar industry,” Brown told a news conference. “Frankly, I never believed in my wildest dreams that we would be seizing counterfeit cigarettes.”

Brown said the surge in cigarette taxes, which since July have risen from 20 cents to $1.50 per pack, has simultaneously increased the black market for cheap packs that undercut retail brands selling for as much as $7.50 a pack in New York City.

Brown said authorities seized 1,265 cartons of untaxed counterfeit tobacco products in the raid with a street value of $88,500 and a tax value of $45,034. He said the operation was handling weekly shipments worth about $100,000, which potentially was worth more than $5 million per year.

Brown said the 600 or so cartons of fake Marlboro and Marlboro Lights cigarettes contained sawdust instead of tobacco and higher levels of nicotine. Brown also said there was no surgeon general’s warning on the fake cigarette boxes and no red “pull tab” which helps open the individual packs.

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