FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 24, 2012
NEWARK, N.J. – Three residents of California were arrested today in the Los Angeles area for shipping millions of untaxed contraband cigarettes from New Jersey to California, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced today.
Yazhou Wu, 28, of Diamond Bar, Calif.; Jia Yongming, 44, of Monterey Park, Calif., and Johnny Chan Koon Ha, 35, of Corona, Calif., were charged by Complaint with conspiring to ship and distribute more than 4,600 cases of cigarettes, which bore no evidence of the payment of applicable state taxes. A fourth man charged in the Complaint, Ricky Le, 51, of Diamond Bar, is currently out of the country; the other three defendants were scheduled to make their initial appearances later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Hillman in Los Angeles federal court.
According to the Complaint:
Most states, including California, require a stamp to be placed on pack of cigarettes indicating the appropriate state tax has been paid. From May 2009 through May, 2011, California imposed an $0.87 tax on each pack of cigarettes. The Complaint alleges that the cigarettes were shipped in containers from China to Port Newark, N.J., and then shipped by truck to the defendants in California, where they were delivered by FBI agents working under cover. The FBI agents were paid approximately $225,000 as commissions for delivering five loads of cigarettes. California lost more than $2 million in taxes as a result of this conspiracy.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward; and special agents of HSI-ICE, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Andrew McLees, for the investigation leading to today’s arrests.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney V. Grady O’Malley, senior litigation counsel, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark.