$750,000 Seized From Cigarette Bootleggers

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$750,000 Seized From Cigarette Bootleggers

MASTIC BEACH, N.Y. -- Authorities snagged the owner of an Indian reservation tobacco shop here that allegedly supplied New York City retailers with thousands of illegal and counterfeit cigarettes, the New York Post reported.

Unkechaung Indian Nation member Ronald Bell, of Mastic Beach, Long Island, is the supposed head of the operation. In addition to felony tax charges, he is being investigated for conspiracy to commit murder connected to the tax evasion scheme, the Post reported.

Bell is the proprietor of The Outpost, a tobacco shop on the 52-acre Poospatuck Indian reservation in Mastic Beach. Because the store is on reservation property, Bell is not obligated to collect taxes on tobacco products sold to other Native Americans at his shop, according to Detective Sgt. Patrick Ryder of the Nassau County Police Department.

However, the store must collect taxes on cigarettes that he sells to people off the reservation. According to Ryder, Bell allegedly bought $18 million in cigarettes through wholesale and then sold them to distributors last year, raking in almost $2 million in profit.

In addition, Bell is charged with selling counterfeit cartons of cigarettes made in China with counterfeit tax stamps, Paul Rossi of the state Department of Taxation and Finance told the Post.

During the bust, authorities confiscated approximately $750,000 in cash, 15 vehicles -- including several Mercedes-Benz, three handguns, a shotgun and 41,000 cartons of untaxed cigarettes, the report stated. Authorities arrested Bell, 40, his wife Yvette Mitchner, 38, and six others on felony tax charges.

One of the scheme's players, Kee Hodck Cheow, 44, attempted to hide $100,000 in cash in a washing machine in his Brooklyn residence's backyard, according to the report.