Multiple arrests in CT’s largest illegal tobacco distribution bust
Connecticut Commissioner of Revenue Services Kevin Sullivan today announced the results of a five-month investigation that led to the arrest of 10 people as well as the seizure of more than $50,000 in cash and $234,000 in contraband tobacco from a Bridgeport tobacco wholesaler. The operation was conducted by the agency’s Criminal Investigations Division (CID) in cooperation with the Bridgeport police department.
Said Commissioner Kevin B. Sullivan, “We are very serious about tax fraud. I am pleased that our special agents shut down a very lucrative operation that was a significant distributor of untaxed tobacco products throughout Fairfield and New Haven Counties over several years. This action has put an end to what has been an ongoing crime involving as much as $250,000 in untaxed tobacco provided by the distributor and sold by local stores each month.”
KDV Discounts, LLC of 67A Poland St., Bridgeport was raided by DRS agents armed with a search warrant. The owner, Pavan M. Vaswani of West Haven was arrested and charged with possession/sale of untaxed tobacco and conspiracy to possession/sale of untaxed tobacco. Vaswani’s illegal tobacco distribution ring sold in excess of $13 million in untaxed tobacco to approximately 450 retail locations in Connecticut. That equates to nearly $6 million in outstanding excise and sales tax. KDV Discounts was distributing non-taxed tobacco products purchased in Pennsylvania and Illinois. Vaswami was arrested at KDV Discounts in Bridgeport as he was unloading untaxed tobacco products purchased in Pennsylvania. Agents seized a delivery van and $50,000 in cash.
DRS Special Agents also arrested the following additional KVD Discounts employees and store owners for possession/sale of untaxed tobacco and conspiracy to possess/sell untaxed tobacco: Carlos Beras of Waterbury, Sayed Ahmed of West Haven, Sheik Hossain of West Haven; Joshua Ortiz of Shelton; Quendri Ortiz of Bridgeport, Mohamed Farook of Naugatuck, Arti Patel of Wallingford, Prashant Patel of Naugatuck, and Abdulkadar Shaikh of Stamford. If convicted, the arrests could lead to penalties ranging from fines up to $2,000, up to two years in prison, or both, as well as sales permit revocation and fines. Additional arrests and civil enforcement may result.
Added Commissioner Sullivan, “Our message is clear: The distribution and sale of untaxed tobacco products is a crime. We will not allow criminals to profit from these illegal activities, unfairly compete with law-abiding businesses and steal from all the other taxpayers in our state.”