Office of the State Treasurer


August 18, 2006

Mark Perkiss
(609) 984-7110

Peter Page ( Trenton P.D.) (609) 989-4070

Trenton Police and NJ Taxation Division Target
Illegal Cigarette Sales

 ( TRENTON ) -- Acting New Jersey Division of Taxation Director Carol O'Cleireacain and Trenton Police Director Joseph Santiago announced that a series of arrest warrants were executed today in Trenton by officers of the Division of Taxation and the Trenton Police Department in an investigation into the sale of untaxed cigarettes. The investigation was begun by the Division of Taxation's Office of Criminal Investigation in response to complaints by local businesses concerning the sale of untaxed cigarettes on street corners.

"This cooperative investigation led to the arrests of numerous individuals who allegedly had been selling illegal cigarettes and not collecting or paying the required cigarette taxes," said acting Director O'Cleireacain.

All cigarettes used or sold in New Jersey must have tax stamps affixed, proving that the state's tax of $2.575 per pack has been paid. In New Jersey , it is illegal to sell or possess cigarettes purchased in other states or over the internet without paying all requisite taxes due to New Jersey . Untaxed cigarettes are illegally sold at prices well below the price at which law-abiding merchants can sell their products.

"This operation is another example of the Trenton Police Department's many and effective law enforcement partnerships,'' said Director Joseph Santiago. "The Treasury Department is responsible for protecting the lawful revenues of the State of New Jersey and we are responsible for rooting out crime in Trenton . Both agencies met their responsibilities today by working together.''

Officers of the Metro District, which is responsible for patrolling downtown Trenton , Tactical Anti-Crime Unit 1 and the Regional Violent Crime Interdiction Task Force assisted Treasury investigators. Metro officers closed off North Broad Street between West Hanover and West State streets for a short while when officers swooped in to make arrests at approximately 1:15 p.m.''

The enforcement action resulted in the arrests of 10 people. The suspects are:

  1. Andre Howlen, 20, of the first block Taylor Street , Trenton.
  2. Larry Howlen, 21, of the 700 block of Hoffman Avenue , Trenton.
  3. Willie Howlen, 37, of Mill Creek Road , Levittown , Pa.
  4. Male juvenile, age undetermined, of the 300 block of Williams Street , Trenton.
  5. Male juvenile, 15, of the 300 block of Williams Street , Trenton.
  6. Benjamin Bethea, 37, of the 300 block of West Hanover Street , Trenton.
  7. Jesse Evans, 42, of the 200 block of Field Avenue , Trenton.
  8. Dweli Koom, 19, of the 300 block of Clearfield Avenue , Trenton.
  9. Jamar Adams, 27, of the 100 block of Fountain Avenue , Trenton.
  10. Nely Ramos, 39, of the 300 block of Hudson Street, Trenton

All of the suspects were charged with violations of the Cigarette Tax Act. They are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.

Willie Howlen was previously indicted in January 2006 on charges of selling untaxed cigarettes. That case is pending.

Acting Director O'Cleireacain praised the Trenton Police Department for its outstanding assistance in the investigation and help in making the arrests.

"This enforcement action is an example of our efforts to protect legitimate businesses that are following the rules and collecting the appropriate cigarette taxes on their sales and remitting that revenue to the state," Acting Director O'Cleireacain said.

"We are very pleased to be able to work with the Trenton Police Department in this fashion as part of our ongoing effort to work cooperatively with police in other jurisdictions throughout New Jersey ," O'Cleireacain said.

Officers from the Division of Taxation have worked on collaborative cigarette tax enforcement efforts in Atlantic City , Camden , Irvington and Newark.

Anyone with information regarding violations of the Cigarette Tax Act is encouraged to call the Division of Taxation, Office of Criminal Investigation's Tobacco Interdiction Program (TIP) Hotline at (609) 291-7153.

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