Cigarette Trafficker Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison and Forfeits more than $115,000 and Lexus SUV
Defendant Illegally Imported And Sold Vietnamese Cigarettes – Frequently Sold To Juveniles
The owner of a Kenmore, Washington nail and beauty salon who illegally imported and sold cigarettes was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 18 months in prison, three years of supervised release and will pay approximately $250,000 in tax penalties and assessments, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. HAN BUI, 45, owner of Lovely Nails and Beauty Salon on NE 181st Street, pleaded guilty February 12, 2013 to trafficking in counterfeit cigarettes. At sentencing U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour ordered that the tax assessments and penalties will go to the State of Washington for the taxes lost on the sale of the counterfeit cigarettes.
According to records filed in the case, HAN BUI came to the attention of law enforcement as part of a coordinated investigation of illegal cigarette imports from Vietnam. The investigation identified BUI and her husband as the highest volume illegal importers of cigarettes from Vietnam. The contraband cigarettes are sold under familiar U.S. brand names and packaging, but are manufactured in Vietnam. BUI did not pay federal excise taxes or state cigarette taxes on the cigarettes. Investigators estimate the tax loss from BUI’s illegal trafficking at more than $450,000. When a search warrant was served on her home in July 2011, she possessed more than 400,000 contraband cigarettes, along with $115,500 cash, and a Lexus SUV that she admitted was purchased with the proceeds of her cigarette trafficking. The cash and the SUV are being forfeited to the government.
In asking for a two year prison sentence prosecutors wrote to the court that “between November of 2009 and July of 2011, BUI purchased from Vietnam and arranged the importation of hundreds of thousands of contraband cigarettes in hundreds of mailed parcels….On the day her house and business were searched, Ms. Bui was in possession of more than 2,000 cartons of cigarettes…. investigators have reason to believe that because the contraband cigarettes were being sold outside of legal, regulated channels, they were ending up in the hands of minors at disproportionately high rates.”
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Washington State Liquor Control Board. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Darwin Roberts.