Holy smokes! Rabbi in cig-tax bust

New York Post/February 29, 2012

A Brooklyn rabbi who allegedly scammed the state out of nearly $200,000 a week in unpaid cigarette taxes has been snuffed out of business, The Post has learned.

Authorities say Meshulam Rothschild, 26, was moving illegal cigarettes bearing no tax stamps out of his warehouse on Spencer Street in Williamsburg.

The Post witnessed his arrest in a raid earlier this month by the Brooklyn DA's office and feds from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Rothschild, a member of the Pupa Hasidic sect, allegedly purchased the untaxed cigarettes in Virginia and then peddled them to bodegas and shops in Chinatown and elsewhere in the city.

He moved about 3,600 cartons a week, sources said. The state lost about $50 in tax on each contraband carton.

One source said Rothschild actually had to start sending the cigarettes back to Virginia for phony tax stamps at one point because Chinatown merchants were refusing to buy the unstamped packs — for fear they were inferior fakes from China.

Rothschild also was charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument for allegedly possessing more than 11,000 phony tax stamps from the Old Dominion state. That top rap could land him 15 years behind bars.

Also arrested in the scheme were three members of the same family: Nasmi Havolli, 51; his son Nart, 20; and Nasmi's nephew Blerim, 24.

In all, 23 people have been busted for beating the state and city out of more than $2 million in cigarette taxes, officials said.

A fraction of the money has been recovered through forfeitures.

In one case, cig-tax scofflaw Mamdu Bayy, 34, forfeited almost $240,000, and in another, cheat Ching Chong Lam, 46, gave up $180,000 to satisfy the charges against them, a spokeswoman for the Brooklyn DA said.

During another sting, two men, Gani Hodja and Abdul Herkash met with an undercover investigator to buy untaxed cigarettes and wound up spraying the operative with mace. They then stole the shipment of Newports and Marlboros, the spokeswoman said.

They were charged with robbery.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.