Brooklyn DA confiscates fake cigarette tax stamps

BROOKLYN - A man is accused of scamming the state out of millions of dollars in cigarette taxes, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said Wednesday.

Authorities say an investigation of Rafea al-Nablisi led them to eventually confiscate more than $500,000 worth of counterfeit New York state tax stamps. Officials believe al-Nablisi was going to sell the fake stamps, normally worth $3 each, for a little more than 4 cents each.

The stamps go on the bottom of cigarette boxes, showing that they've been properly taxed. Officials say al-Nablisi essentially robbed the state and city out of its tax money, and ultimately taxpayers who will pay for counterfeit cigarettes.

"He would then take those untaxed cigarettes ? he would affix these counterfeit stamps on them," says Michael Vecchione, with the DA's office. "[He would] sell them to another middleman who would sell them to the retailers."

According to Hynes' office, his investigators found about 100 cartons of bootleg smokes that contain lead and other heavy metals. Officials say there's no real way to trace the cigarettes that may already be in stores.

The counterfeit tax stamp seizure is the state's largest to date.

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