• Subscribe to the AG's RSS Feed
  • Join the AG's FaceBook
  • Follow the AG on Twitter
  • View the AG's YouTube Channel
  • View the AG's Tumblr Page

Investigation Leads to Arrests of 15 Individuals who Evaded $34 Million in Tobacco Taxes

Monday, August 9, 2010
Contact: (415) 703-5837

SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced today that special agents with the state Department of Justice, working closely with the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the state Board of Equalization, have charged 15 individuals with tobacco smuggling and tax evasion schemes that diverted some $34 million from state and county health care programs and the state’s general fund.

The three-year investigation has uncovered “rampant fraud” among tobacco distributors with estimated tax losses totaling more than $80 million, including today’s case. More than $20 million in tobacco, property and cash has been seized.

“This is rampant fraud where fake invoices are used to disguise contraband tobacco, and often get passed from distributor to wholesaler to the mom-and-pop store,” said Brown. “We’re following every phony paper trail to ensure that the state collects every penny it’s owed in tobacco product taxes.”

The 15 individuals were arrested last week and released on bonds ranging from $50,000 to $250,000. The charges, which include mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and trafficking in contraband tobacco, were filed in Sacramento and Los Angeles U.S. District Courts. The defendants charged in Los Angeles have been arraigned there, and the Sacramento defendants will be arraigned later this month.

The taxes evaded in these cases were for “other tobacco products,” such as cigars, chewing tobacco and leaf tobacco.

Under California law, distributors of these “other tobacco products” are required to collect an excise tax of more than 45% from the wholesaler and submit monthly reports to the Board of Equalization. To evade these taxes, distributors set up their businesses in Nevada or Arizona and report that they are exporting the tobacco and thus owe no excise taxes. The products are then smuggled into California, where actual sales are concealed by the use of shell companies to receive the products, false documents that understate the amount of tobacco, and the use of untraceable cash sales to wholesalers.

“This investigation has exposed systematic and widespread tax evasion in the distribution of tobacco products in California,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. “Participants in that industry who might be tempted to short-change the State of California should take note of the indictments announced today, and should understand that our investigations are not over.”

In 2008, the task force issued a search warrant against Ideal Tobacco, a large Nevada distributor. Using information seized from Ideal Tobacco, agents tracked down Ideal’s largest customers who were buying tobacco from Ideal and selling it in California, but failing to pay state’s tobacco tax.

The individuals and charges include:

• Galiom Mansour, president and CEO, and Naeim Hanno, CFO, of South Bay Wholesale, Inc. in Carson, are charged with 39 counts of mail fraud. Estimated losses to the state are $519,000 in unpaid tobacco products tax.
• Adib Sirope and Rimoun Mansour, partners in Pay-Less Wholesale in North Hollywood, are charged with 39 counts of mail fraud. Estimated losses to the state are $2.5 million in unpaid tobacco products tax.
• Atif Henan, Atef Shehata, Samy Girgis and Soheir Girgis, partners in Classic Wholesale (and later House of Tobacco) in Los Angeles, are charged with 17 counts of mail fraud. Estimated losses to the state are $1.5 million in unpaid tobacco products tax.
• Jack Haroun, president and CEO of Wholesale Palace in Burbank, is charged with 37 counts of mail fraud. Estimated losses to the state are $554,000 in unpaid tobacco products tax.
• Mohammed Halaweh, using the names CTC Distribution and T&T Tobacco for unlicensed companies in Los Angeles, is charged with 13 counts of mail fraud and eight counts of trafficking in contraband tobacco. Estimated losses to the state are $5.3 million in unpaid tobacco products tax.
• Mehdi Mohammed Humkar, using the name M&D Tobacco for an unlicensed company in Los Angeles, is charged with 15 counts of mail fraud and seven counts of trafficking in contraband tobacco. Estimated losses to the state are $528,000 in unpaid tobacco products tax.
• Rajnish Makkad, Charanjit Singh, and Amrit Singh, principals in Arctic Inc., a Nevada corporation not licensed to distribute OTP, and IIG Inc. in Los Angeles, are charged with 19 counts of mail fraud and 16 counts of trafficking in contraband tobacco. Estimated losses to the state are $13.8 million in unpaid tobacco products tax.
• Abdurrahman Yousuf, owner and operator of A to Z Cash and Carry in Los Angeles, is charged with 17 counts of mail fraud and 13 counts of trafficking in contraband tobacco. Estimated losses to the state are $2.3 million in unpaid tobacco products tax.

While sentencing varies, the maximum penalty for each count of mail fraud is 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and a three-year term of supervised release. The maximum penalty for each count of trafficking in contraband tobacco and each count of conspiracy is five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and a three-year term of supervised release.

# # #

Search News Releases

Subscriptions

Megan's Law

California Registered Sex Offender Database

Search Now

Megan's Law information is also available in these languages:

Site Navigation

Translate Website

  • Google™ Translation Disclaimer

This Google™ translation feature is provided for informational purposes only.

The Office of the Attorney General is unable to guarantee the accuracy of this translation and is therefore not liable for any inaccurate information resulting from the translation application tool.

Please consult with a translator for accuracy if you are relying on the translation or are using this site for official business.

If you have any questions please contact:Bilingual Services Program at (916) 324-5482

A copy of this disclaimer can also be found on our Disclaimer page.

Select a Language Below / Seleccione el Idioma Abajo

Close this box or use the [ X ]