A Syosset couple was sentenced Wednesday for their role in a scheme to distribute untaxed cigarettes, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
Ben Chen, 42, and Qin Liu, 39, both of Birchwood Park Drive, pleaded guilty in July and were sentenced Wednesday by Queens Supreme Court Justice Dorothy Chin-Brandt, according to a news release.
Chen had pleaded guilty in July to second-degree attempted criminal possession of a forged instrument, a felony, and was sentenced 1 1⁄2 to 3 years in prison.
Liu also had pleaded guilty in July to attempting to evade or defraud a tax on a cigarette or tobacco, also a felony, and was sentenced to 5 years’ probation.
Liu also paid a total of $70,000 in restitution, the release said.
Brown said the convictions were a result of a long-term investigation, including a court-authorized search warrant that was executed on March 1 at 136-19 60th Ave. in Flushing, which, according to New York City Department of Finance records, is owned by Chen and Liu.
Investigators recovered 375 cartons of cigarettes untaxed by New York State and sheets of counterfeit tax stamps purportedly issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
A third defendant, Qing Zheng, 54, of Manhattan, was also arrested in March, and his case is pending, according to the release.
Brown called tobacco bootleggers cheaters who fail to contribute their fair share to the city and state.
“For every dollar or two dollars a store owner or consumer saves by purchasing an untaxed pack of cigarettes, the honest taxpayer becomes the victim by being forced to dip into his or her own pocket to pay higher taxes,” Brown said.