News Releases

News Release

April 25, 2005  -  Columbus, Ohio  - ODT Enforcement Agents Make Biggest Seizure of Untaxed Cigars, Snuff and Other Tobacco Products in Department History

COLUMBUS (April 25, 2005) –  Recent investigations by Ohio Department of Taxation Enforcement agents resulted in the seizure of more than $1 million in untaxed cigars, snuff and other tobacco products in Toledo and led to a Cleveland man beginning a 30-month jail sentence in connection a case involving more than $300,000 in unpaid tobacco taxes.  


In Toledo agents last week confiscated more than one million cigars, 12,000 cans of snuff and many other tobacco products from storage units at “Stop-N-Lock,” 5544 Jackman Road, and at the “U-Haul Self Storage” facility, 50 W. Alexis Road. The units were leased by a firm identified as IMW Enterprises, Inc.


Ohio Tax Commissioner William W. Wilkins estimated Ohio taxes on the confiscated merchandise would exceed $150,000. The Ohio tax on “other tobacco products,” which includes merchandise like that seized, is 17 percent of the wholesale price.


Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) agents charged Ibrihim Al-Niqrish, whose address is listed only as the “Detroit, Michigan area,” in connection with the seizures. He is charged with one count of possessing untaxed tobacco products, a fourth degree felony, and transporting tobacco products without a license, a fourth degree misdemeanor. Conviction on the felony count could result in a sentence of up to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 or both.  Conviction on the misdemeanor could result in fine of up to $250, 30 days in jail or both. Additional state and federal charges may be filed. Al-Niqrish was being held in the Lucas County Jail pending arraignment.


ODT Enforcement agents believe the tobacco products were destined to be sold at carryout or convenience stores. The seizures and arrest came about as result of a tip from another Ohio state agency.


“The seizure of these products represents another of this department’s on-going efforts to eliminate the unfair competition created for honest merchants when someone tries to sell untaxed products of any kind,” Wilkins said.


Pending judicial approval, Wilkins said the seized products will be sold with the applicable tax going into state coffers.


“The seizure of these untaxed tobacco products was the result of a six-month investigation conducted by Enforcement Division agents in our Toledo office,” Wilkins said, “and I want to publicly commend them for their efforts.”


In the Cleveland case, also last week, Harbi Mustafa, 37, of 6030 Timber Trail Dr., North Olmstead, started a 30-month jail term in another other tobacco products case.


Mustafa pleaded guilty in late 2002 to charges related to about $1 million in untaxed other tobacco products. He was sentenced to 30 months in jail, five years probation and to pay $1,000 per month until a $306,382 liability in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties was satisfied.


Recently, Mustafa, through his attorney, asked that the payments be reduced because he said he was no longer in business.


An ODT Enforcement Division agent discovered, however, Mustafa still received large quantities of other tobacco products from various distributors and that he was a year delinquent on his $1,000 monthly restitution payments.


On learning what the ODT Enforcement agent’s report, a common pleas judge ordered Mustafa taken into custody to immediately begin serving his 30-month sentence and ordered him to make restitution on his tax liability.


Mustafa could face other charges as a result of ODT’s continuing investigation.

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(For more information contact Gary Gudmundson, ODT director of communications, 614-644-6903.)