More than $550K collected from prosecution of illegal tobacco ring in Ga.

Cigarettes and Gavel
Posted at 9:54 AM, Dec 10, 2012

ATLANTA-- The State of Georgia will receive $550,897.89 in taxes from defendants in a tobacco trafficking ring.

Attorney General Sam Olens announced that his office is expected to recover even more money as the prosecution continues. So far, 42 of the 50 defendants have pleaded guilty and been sentenced.

A three year investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Atlanta Field Division uncovered the illegal tobacco trafficking ring, which spanned several counties. The defendants were arrested on and shortly after October 19, 2011, for violations of state law involving the illegal possession, sale and distribution of contraband cigarettes. The defendants avoided the payment of state excise taxes on cigarettes by knowingly purchasing untaxed cigarettes which had counterfeit excise tax stamps.

“Through swift and aggressive prosecution of these defendants, we have recovered over $550,000.00 in tobacco tax revenue for the State of Georgia,” said Attorney General Sam Olens. “In addition to paying their debts to the State, these criminals have been put out of business. I commend Assistant Attorney General Greg Lohmeier for his excellent work and appreciate the assistance of our federal and state partners in this effort.”

“Counterfeiting cigarettes not only cheats Georgia’s taxpayers, but it also puts unregulated cigarettes on the market,” said Revenue Commissioner Doug MacGinnitie. “The Alcohol and Tobacco agents from the Department of Revenue worked hard alongside the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, local law enforcement, and our Attorney General to bring these offenders to justice.”

“Tobacco smugglers are thieves, plain and simple. The money stolen through diversion of tax dollars could be used to fund a multitude of other things or help provide jobs for people who live in states that don’t get their proper tax revenue on tobacco products,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Scott Sweetow. Sweetow further added, “ATF is the primary, federal law enforcement agency leading tobacco diversion cases, and this investigation further strengthens the collaboration with our federal, state, local and regulatory counterparts.”

The following defendants were sentenced by Judge Ronnie K. Batchelor in Gwinnett County Superior Court: Harjinder Singh, Anandkumar Acharya, Parwaiz Panjwani, Reshma Khakiani, Balbir Singh, Sadiq Khakiani, Samuel Reji, Antonio Bakkos, Paul Wilson, John Jojo, Emmanuel Joseph, Shaji Sukumar, Jackson Kudilil, Sonu Cherian, Sibi Cherian, Amadou Diallo, Cajetan Fernandes, Silvester Joseph, Azim Jivani, Javed Ajani, Karim Ali, Dilshad Lakhani, Mamud Dhanani, Firoz Sayani, Mohammad Hussain, Aftab Lakhani, Shafeeq Mohammed, Maheshkumar Patel, Rashmikan Patel, Kanaiyalal Patel, Ankitkumar Patel, Talha Mumtaz, Amin Alibhai, Pragnesh Patel, Saji Kurian, Sanjay Bector and Shirish Patel.

The following defendants were sentenced by Judge Adele P. Grubbs in Cobb County Superior Court: Shabir Isani and Nizarali Isani.

Amin Hudda was sentenced by Judge Gail C. Flake and Leslie Charles was sentenced by Judge Asha Jackson in DeKalb County Superior Court.

Paresh Patel was sentenced by Judge Jason J. Deal in Hall County Superior Court.

Assistant Attorney General Greg Lohmeier is prosecuting the case on behalf of the State of Georgia. The arrests and prosecution were part of a joint federal and state law enforcement effort between the ATF Atlanta Field Division, Georgia Attorney General’s Office, Georgia Department of Revenue, the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office, the Lawrenceville Police Department and the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department.