New York AG bemoans lost chance for people to pay taxes after major tobacco piracy bust

Earlier this year we saw New York State dealing with a rash of cigarette smuggling rings being busted by the Feds and local law enforcement alike. One of the biggest involved Basel Ramadan, who had cashed in to the tune of more than $10M by smuggling smokes into the state from lower tax regions and selling them on the black market. He had his day in court last week and was brought in guilty, facing decades in jail on the charges when his sentencing hearing is held. It’s a big victory for law enforcement, but the state’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, certainly had an odd spin on why this was such a big deal for his constituents. (Washington Times, emphasis added)

A Maryland man accused of spearheading the smuggling of more than a million cartons of untaxed cigarettes into New York state was convicted Tuesday of racketeering but acquitted of charges that he plotted behind bars to get witnesses killed.

Basel Ramadan faces a potential sentence of up to 30 years in prison on his conviction, which authorities say involved more than $10 million in illegal profits and at least $80 million in tax evasion. Ramadan was convicted of nearly 200 counts including money laundering, tax crimes and enterprise corruption, New York’s version of racketeering, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

“This individual led a criminal enterprise that stretched from Maryland to New York, flooded our state with millions of cheap cigarettes and cheated New Yorkers out of tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue” and denied local businesses a level playing field, Schneiderman said in a statement.

Excuse me… did you just say that Ramadan cheated us out of tens of millions in tax revenue? You do understand, don’t you, that he cheated the state government out of millions that you would have otherwise been soaking out of the taxpayers, right? While we certainly want you prosecuting criminals in the course of your job, let’s not pretend that you were doing the rank and file citizens of New York any favors here. Cigarettes in New York City cost approximately ten dollars a pack more than they do in some less oppressive states like Tennessee, just for one example.

In reality, the fact that New York was “cheated” out of all that money is the direct result of the outrageously high sin taxes you’ve passed in the legislature and your boss, Andrew Cuomo, has signed into law. If there weren’t such an incentive to game the system we wouldn’t have people running bootlegging operations to get around the law. And you wouldn’t have people like Eric Gardner selling singles out on the street corners.

That doesn’t mean that people should be allowed to break the law, but let’s not get all high and mighty like you’re doing us a favor. The fact is that New Yorkers are still going to be getting robbed… it will just be the state government doing the robbing.

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