California Men Atif Henan and Samy Girgis Sentenced For Excise Tax Fraud
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Atif Henan, 59, of Los Angeles, and Samy Girgis, 60, of Norwalk, were sentenced today by United States District Judge John A. Mendez to 27 months and 21 months in prison respectively for their roles in a scheme to defraud the State of California of more than $1 million in state tobacco excise taxes, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner and California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced.
Although Judge Mendez ordered a restitution hearing for August 28, 2012, the parties advised the court that it was likely that the an agreement would be reached prior to that hearing for the defendants to pay in excess of $900,000 in restitution to the State of California to make up for the excise tax that was not paid as a result of the scheme.
Henan and Girgis both pleaded guilty to committing mail fraud on January 31, 2012. According to their plea agreements, Henan, Girgis and Atef Shehata were partners in Classic Wholesale, a licensed tobacco distributorship in Los Angeles. (Shehata has also pleaded guilty to mail fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on September 18, 2012). Classic Tobacco and its successor entity House of Tobacco ordered and received approximately $2.5 million in untaxed tobacco products from a Las Vegas tobacco distributor. In order to avoid a paper trail that law enforcement might use to unravel the scheme, the distributor used a phony company name on the invoices and shipping records. The product was then shipped to a trucking terminal in Los Angeles instead of the defendants’ actual place of business. In a further effort to disguise this illegal activity, Classic Tobacco/House of Tobacco did report and pay tax on a small portion of the tobacco products that it received to make it appear that it was complying with the law, however, the great majority of the shipments went unreported. In this way the defendants evaded nearly $1 million in excise taxes that was owed to the State.
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