Four Men Are Accused Of Trafficking Cigarettes from Virginia to Northern States
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA — The owner of a Citgo gas station in Fredericksburg, Va, two of his employees and a man from the Bronx, N.Y., were indicted by a federal grand jury sitting in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville this week on charges related to an alleged contraband cigarette conspiracy they organized.
In an indictment returned under seal on July 13, the grand jury has charged Vijay Nanubhai Patel, 50, Pullin P. Amin, 30, and Diveshkumar Desai, 23, all of Fredericksburg, Virginia and the Bronx individual, whose identity remains under seal. The grand jury also charged Mars and Roshni, Inc., the company that owns the Citgo gas station.
The three defendants who appeared in court today have been charged with one count of conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes and six counts of trafficking in contraband cigarettes. Patel, Amin, Desai and Mars and Roshni Inc., have each been charged with one additional count of conspiracy in regards to the failure to maintain cigarette sales records.
According to the indictment, Patel is the President of and directs the day–to–day operations of Mars and Roshni, which owns and operates C&J Citgo on Jefferson Davis Highway in Fredericksburg. Amin and Desai were employees of M&R and Citgo and worked under Patel’s management and direction.
From at least 2009, Patel, Amin and Desai purchased cigarettes from several legitimate sources in the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia. The three sellers also purchased taxed and untaxed cigarettes from an undercover law enforcement officers in the spring of 2011. As part of the alleged conspiracy, the sellers would hold large amounts of cigarettes for cigarette traffickers who would drive to the Citgo station to purchase contraband cigarettes in amounts exceeding fifty cartons (10,000 cigarettes) and transport them to points outside of Virginia, including New York and Pennsylvania, for resale.
According to the indictment, between June 11, 2010 and April 21, 2011, alone, the sellers sold approximately 38,097 cartons of cigarettes to New York traffickers, costing the City and State of New York $4,867,024.50 in cigarette taxes and $431,948.42 in sales taxes.
During the peak of their alleged criminal activity, Patel, Amin and Desai were selling approximately $1 million in cigarettes a month to cigarette traffickers.
Each defendant faces a maximum possible penalty of five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for each count they are charged. Mars and Roshni faces a possible monetary fine if convicted. In addition, restitution may be ordered in this case.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia, the Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office and the Spotsylvania County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Ronald Huber and Special Assistant United States Attorneys Ramin Fatehi and Thomas Shaia are prosecuting the case for the United States.
A Grand Jury indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial with the burden on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.