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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Sharon Men Indicted for Tobacco Tax Fraud and Money Laundering

BOSTON – Two Sharon men were charged today in U.S. District Court in Boston in connection with illegally selling tobacco products and laundering the proceeds.

Muhammad Saleem Iqbal, 53, and Kaleem Ahmad, 47, were indicted on one count of wholesale tobacco tax fraud and one count of money laundering conspiracy.

The indictment alleges that Iqbal and a business partner operated a wholesale business under the name “Pick N Dip,” in Norwood that sold tobacco products, including cigars and smokeless tobacco (such as snuff and chewing tobacco), as well as other non-tobacco items, to convenience stores, gas stations and other retail businesses.  Under state law, smokeless tobacco wholesalers must file an excise tax form monthly and pay a 210% excise tax on smokeless tobacco brought into Massachusetts.  Cigar wholesalers must file an excise tax form quarterly and must pay a 40% excise tax on cigars brought into Massachusetts

It is alleged that in order to evade tobacco taxes, beginning around 2010, Iqbal, Ahmad and business partner repeatedly purchased tens of thousands of dollars at a time worth of smokeless tobacco and cigars in Pennsylvania where no taxes are imposed for these tobacco products.   They then arranged to have these tobacco products covertly transported to Massachusetts for resale, without filing the records required by Massachusetts state law and federal law, and without paying excise taxes.

Ahmad and others are alleged to have repeatedly engaged in large cash transactions in order to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the proceeds of their illegal tobacco business and to avoid transaction reporting requirements under federal and state law.  The indictment alleges that Ahmad and others transported more than $50,000 in cash at a time from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania where the money was used to purchase additional untaxed smokeless tobacco and cigars.

The charges of wholesale tobacco tax fraud and money laundering conspirary each provide for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.  Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.  Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. 

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; William P. Offord, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston; and Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division, made the announcement today.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen P. Heymann of Ortiz’s Economic Crimes Unit.

The details contained in the Indictment are allegations.  The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Financial Fraud
Updated January 14, 2016