Chinatown Man Who Illegally Imported Cigarettes Sentenced to Prison

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Los Angeles man was sentenced to eight months in federal prison today for illegally importing tobacco products.         

Zhi Xiong Chen, 56, a Chinatown resident, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge George Wu to complete 60 hours of community service following his prison term.             

Chen pleaded guilty in January to the felony offense and admitted that for nearly five years, despite not holding a permit to import tobacco products, he used several addresses to receive 15,128 cartons of Chinese-brand cigarettes.              

During that time, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers also stopped about 9,825 cartons of Chinese-brand cigarettes at international mail facilities in California and New York.              

As part of the scheme, Chen admitted that he attempted to evade paying more than $467,000 in federal and state excise taxes on the cigarettes that he illegally imported.              

``While Zhi Xiong Chen was illegally importing tens of thousands of cartons of cigarettes into the United States, he was also evading hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes due on those cigarettes,'' Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department's tax division said at the time of the guilty plea.             

 ``Importers who obtain the required permits and pay their fair share of taxes deserve to compete on a level playing field,'' Goldberg said. ``Those who try to cut corners and skirt these legal obligations should know that they will be investigated and prosecuted.''

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