First Conspirator Pleads Guilty in Conspiracy to Distribute and Sell Millions in Contraband Cigarettes
BALTIMORE—Adam Azerman, age 59, of Pikesville, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department; Special Agent in Charge Antoinette V. Henry of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations; and Special Agent in Charge Nicholas DiGiulio, Office of Investigations, Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.
According to his guilty plea, Azerman conspired with other to receive, possess, sell, and distribute contraband cigarettes, that is, cigarettes on which the applicable state taxes have not been paid. The cigarettes were sold and distributed in quantities of 10,000 cigarettes or more and bore no evidence of the payment of applicable state sales taxes. Co-conspirators obtained contraband cigarettes, which were transported from Maryland to Brooklyn, New York, and sold at a profit to individuals in New York, who further distributed the contraband cigarettes.
Azerman transported contraband cigarettes from Maryland to Brooklyn using a van registered in his name. Following a delivery of contraband cigarettes in Maryland, members of the conspiracy arranged for the contraband cigarettes to be loaded into Azerman’s van. Azerman drove his van from Maryland to Brooklyn, New York, where he met a co-conspirator and provided him with the keys to the van. The co-conspirator would take the van and return a few hours later, after having unloaded the contraband cigarettes into a nearby warehouse. Azerman would drive the van back to Maryland. On the days that Azerman transported contraband cigarettes, he used his cell phone to communicate with co-conspirators in New York and Maryland.
Co-conspirators in Maryland purchased quantities of contraband cigarettes on 18 occasions between December 2011 and November 2013 from an undercover FBI agent operating in the Baltimore County, Maryland area. These transactions included thousands of cartons of contraband cigarettes. At the time of the indictment, the cigarette tax in Maryland was $2 per package of cigarettes ($20 per carton of cigarettes) and the cigarette tax in New York was $4.35 per package of cigarettes ($43.50 per carton of cigarettes). The total tax evaded was more than $1 million.
Azerman faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes. U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, Jr. has scheduled sentencing for September 11, 2014, at 1:00 p.m.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI, Baltimore County Police Department, U.S. Food & Drug Administration-Office of Criminal Investigations, and Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Investigations for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Paul E. Budlow and John W. Sippel, Jr., who are prosecuting the case.