What to Know
- A group of smugglers made millions of dollars by buying cigarette cartons out of state and selling them in New York with counterfeit stamps
- Search warrants executed on Monday recovered around 6,267 cartons of untaxed cigarettes, in addition to $2.3 million in illegal proceeds
- Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown called the smugglers "modern-day bootleggers"
A group of smugglers made millions of dollars in illegal profits by buying cheap cigarettes outside of New York and selling them in-state with counterfeit tax stamps, prosecutors said.
Nicholas Galafano, 56, of Queens, his sons Yaseen Galafano, 22, and Musa Galafano, 25, of Queens, Ahmad Abualrub, 61, of Brooklyn, his son Hassan Abualrub, 18, also of Brooklyn, Beatrice Villafane, 46, of Long Island, Nasir Jafri, 43, of Virginia and Lisa Penda, 33, of Long Island ran a “complex multi-state cigarette smuggling ring,” Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown said.
“The defendants in this case are modern-day bootleggers who allegedly peddled untaxed cigarettes to enrich themselves,” Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement. “This smuggling ring raked in millions of dollars at the expense of New Yorkers.”
“Purchasing cheaper cigarettes from out of state and applying counterfeit tax stamps on them cheats both the state and the city out of much-needed tax revenue,” he added.
This past year, Jafri bought more than 37,000 cigarette cartons from stores in Virginia and Maryland, drove them to New York and sold them to Nicholas Galafano, the DA’s office said.
The Abualrubs then bought the cartons from Nicholas Galafano and sold them to customers in Brooklyn and Queens, according to the DA’s office.
Nicholas Galafano and Villafane ran several businesses together and “laundered the cash generated from the sale of the untaxed cigarettes,” prosecutors said, noting that “nearly one million dollars were in these accounts.”
Search warrants executed on Monday recovered around 6,267 cartons of untaxed cigarettes, in addition to $2.3 million in illegal proceeds, prosecutors said.
The group stole more than $953,000 in taxes that New York City and New York State would have collected if the cigarettes had been sold with legal tax stamps, prosecutors said.
All eight members of the group face charges including second-degree grand larceny, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and fourth-degree conspiracy, the DA’s office said.
They are expected to appear in court again on Nov. 27 and could face anywhere from eight to 30 years in prison, according to the DA’s office.