PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced that a Cranston man has been ordered to repay $13,186 to the State after importing contraband cigarettes from China to Rhode Island in an attempt to avoid paying state excise and sales taxes.
Xi Chen (age 36) pleaded nolo contendere in Providence County Superior Court to one count of importing cigarettes with intent to evade tax.
At today's hearing before Superior Court Justice Luis M. Matos, Chen was given a three-year suspended sentence with probation and ordered to pay $13,186 in restitution to the State.
Had the case proceeded to trial, the State was prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that in September 2019, Chen attempted to receive illegal shipments of contraband cigarettes totaling 273 cartons, or 54,600 cigarettes, at a private mailbox store in Cranston.
On September 19, 2019, an inspector from the United States Postal Inspection Service alerted the Rhode Island State Police (RISP) to 39 suspicious packages originating from China that were being held at a private mailbox store in Cranston. Chen had attempted to retrieve the packages, labeled as towels, but was turned away because he was not an authorized recipient.
The RISP subsequently seized the packages and discovered 273 cartons of cigarettes of various brands.
In 2018, Chen was fined $19,805 by the Rhode Island Division of Taxation after executing a similar scheme where he imported 562 cartons of cigarettes from China and attempted to avoid paying state excise and sales taxes. As a result, Chen signed a statement of voluntary discontinuance, acknowledging he would no longer receive overseas shipments of cigarettes.
Trooper Kyle Denniston of the RISP, United States Postal Inspector Michael Maccarone, and Investigators Gerald Driscoll and Daniel Salzillo of the Rhode Island Division of Taxation coordinated the investigation into the case. Assistant Attorney General Peter Roklan prosecuted the case on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General.