A 67-year-old man, whom prosecutors described as a “big-time cigarette smuggler,” was arrested while attempting to bring more than a half-million untaxed smokes into the state, authorities said Friday.
Michael Zekry, of Staten Island, was stopped by police just after midnight on Nov. 5 in New Springville after a seven-month investigation, Richmond County District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr. said in announcing the arrest. Investigators found 2,035 cartons of Virginia-stamped cigarettes in his van, he said.
Investigators said they found another 551 cartons in Zekry’s apartment, as well as $40,000 and an electronic cash-counting machine.
“Michael Zekry was a big-time cigarette smuggler who sold his contraband to clients across Staten Island,” Donovan said. “He would do residential drop-offs, as well as deliver to grocery stores and nail salons.”
Zekry said he smuggled cigarettes out of Virginia every 10 weeks and earned as much as $7,000 a load, according to Donovan.
“You’ve got a good one! I’m out of business now,” Zekry told investigators, according to Donovan.
The total haul seized from Zekry came to 517,200 cigarettes. Had he sold the entire stash, he would have cheated the state and New York City out of more than $150,000 in tax revenue.
Any vendor selling cigarettes in the state must be licensed to do so and may only sell packs bearing city/state tax stamps.
Zekry was indicted on felony counts of evading cigarette/tobacco products tax and a tax-fraud charge. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.
Zekry's Legal Aid attorney could not be reached for comment.