A Lackawanna man and four suspects in the New York City area were arrested this week for allegedly illegally dealing in untaxed cigarettes. The arrests were made by a new multi-agency Cigarette Strike Force created by Gov. Andrew C. Cuomo to deal with illegal tobacco trafficking statewide.
Murad Elmathil, 31, of Lehigh Street, Lackawanna was arrested by the state Tax Department-led task force and Erie County sheriff’s deputies on Thruway about a mile east of Angola Sunday and charged with transporting more than 600 cartons of contraband cigarettes he told the arresting officers he had purchased in North Carolina. He was also found to be carrying a sandwich bag containing the allegedly illegal narcotic called “khat.”
Elmathil was charged with possession of unstamped cigarettes, criminal tax fraud and criminal possession of a controlled substance. After his arraignment in Evans Town Court, he was released on his own recognizance and ordered to return for further proceedings Nov. 10.
Geoff Glock, a spokesman for the state Department of Taxation and Finance, said the governor created the multi-agency strike force, which is led by the State Tax Department and composed of agents of state, local and federal law enforcement agencies, to deal with the influx of counterfeit and untaxed tobacco products into the state and to trace the illicit financial earnings of the criminal activity.