10 people arrested in state’s largest illegal tobacco distribution bust

Courtesy: State of Connecticut Department of Revenue Services

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTNH) — Ten people are facing charges after a five-month investigation into a Bridgeport tobacco wholesaler led to the largest illegal tobacco bust in state history.

Department of Revenue Services agents raided KDV Discounts on Poland Street in Bridgeport after obtaining a search warrant. The owner of KDV Discounts, Pavan M. Vaswani, of West Haven, was arrested and charged with possession and sale of untaxed tobacco and conspiracy to possess and sell untaxed tobacco.

Vaswani’s illegal tobacco distribution ring sold in excess of $13 million in untaxed tobacco to approximately 450 retail locations in Connecticut, according to officials. KDV Discounts owes nearly $6 million in outstanding excise and sales taxes to the state. KDV Discounts distributed non-taxed tobacco products purchased in Pennsylvania and Illinois. Vaswami was arrested at KDV Discounts as he was unloading taxed tobacco products purchased in Pennsylvania. While there, agents seized a delivery van and $50,000 in cash.

Special agents also arrested additional KDV Discounts employees and owners for possession/sale of untaxed tobacco and conspiracy to posess/sell untaxed tobacco: Carlos Beras of Waterbury, Sayed Ahmed of West Haven, Sheik Hossain of West Haven; Joshua Ortiz of Shelton; Quendri Ortiz of Bridgeport, Mohamed Farook of Naugatuck, Arti Patel of Wallingford, Prashant Patel of Naugatuck, and Abdulkadar Shaikh of Stamford.

If convicted, the penalties range from fines of up to $2,000, up to two years in prison or both. Sales permits can also be revoked and fined. Officials say additional arrests and civil enforcement may result in the future.

Connecticut Commissioner of Revenue Services Kevin Sullivan said selling untaxed tobacco products is a crime.

Our message is clear: The distribution and sale of untaxed tobacco products is a crime. We will not allow criminals to profit from these illegal activities, unfairly compete with law-abiding businesses and steal from all the other taxpayers in our state,” he said.

Officials say they seized more than $50,000 in cash and $234,000 in contraband tobacco from KDV Discounts.

Bridgeport Police Department and the Connecticut Revenue Services’ Criminal Investigations Division worked together on the investigation.