Attempt to transport cigs to NY leads defendant back to Israel

Attempt to transport cigs to NY leads defendant back to Israel

(Jan. 18, 2013) Yossef Dahan came to the United States more than 10 years ago, but now, because of a woman and an arrest, he can hardly wait to return to his native Israel.

That is also what the judge in his case wants.

“You better get out of this country in 60 days,” said Judge Dale Cathell in Circuit Court in Snow Hill on Monday, after Dahan pleaded guilty to transporting untaxed cigarettes. In exchange for the guilty plea, he was not prosecuted for possessing unstamped cigarettes.

Dahan, 60, was living in Brooklyn, N.Y., when a woman somehow took “quite a bit of his money,” defense attorney Julie Guyer told the court. “He determined this might be an opportunity to make some money.”

The opportunity involved going to Virginia to buy hundreds of cartons of cigarettes and deliver them to New York.

Dahan started the trip to Virginia accompanied by his nephew, Ofer Biton, who had arrived in the United States for a visit just two or three hours earlier. In Virginia, Dahan purchased the cigarettes and headed back to New York in a 2005 Honda minivan.

He had not driven far into Maryland when an officer with the Pocomoke Police Department clocked him doing 73 miles per hour in a 55-mile per hour zone on Route 13 at Bunting Road.

Looking into the minivan, the police officer saw cardboard boxes of covered with trash bags with some cigarette cartons poking out.

A search revealed 303 cartons of cigarettes and $1,935 in cash. None of the cigarettes had the Maryland tax stamp required on cigarettes purchased in this state.

According to Maryland law, Maryland residents can bring no more than two packs of untaxed cigarettes into the state, while nonresidents passing through are limited to one carton.

Cigarettes not bearing the proper Maryland tax stamps may be seized as contraband, along with any vehicle used in transporting them.

Dahan and Biton were arrested and charged with transporting untaxed cigarettes and possessing untaxed cigarettes.

The cigarettes in Dahan’s van had a retail value of $19,556.40, said Assistant State’s Attorney William McDermott in court Monday. If the cigarettes had been purchased in Maryland, the state would have had income of $6,064 in taxes.

Judge Cathell, who is retired from the Maryland Court of Appeals, but sometimes sits on the bench for other judges, noted that the state of Maryland is spending money because of taxes not paid to New York state.

“Cigarettes start south and go north and we do New York’s work for them,” said Cathell, who found Dahan guilty of transporting untaxed cigarettes.

Guyer said her client was going to be deported and that he wants to return to Israel and “not come back.”

Since his arrest, she said, Dahan had lost his apartment and his girlfriend. She asked that Cathell consider the seized cash as the fine, but Cathell would not do that.

A Hebrew interpreter translated for Dahan, who is not fluent in English.

“I’m ready to buy a ticket and return,” he said as he wiped tears from his eyes.

Cathell fined Dahan $1,515, or $5 per carton. The $1,935, of which $1,700 belonged to Dahan, will be forfeited to the Pocomoke Police Department. The Comptroller’s Office will decide whether to seize the van.

Cathell also sentenced Dahan to 30 days in jail, with credit for seven days spent in jail after his arrest, and then suspended the sentence. If Dahan spent more time in jail, Cathell said, Worcester County would have to pay for him to be there.

Cathell also told Dahan to get out of the United States.

“I want him to return to our great ally in the Middle East,” Cathell said.

Biton’s trial is scheduled for March 11.

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