Sinds de accijnsverhoging op sigaretten in de staat en stad New York zijn drie mensen omgekomen door schermutselingen die het gevolg waren van straathandel in illegale sigaretten.
Sigaretten worden door voornamelijk jongeren in de zuidelijke staten, waar de belastingen op tabak stukken lager zijn, in grote hoeveelheden ingekocht en met superwinsten in de straten van New York aan de man gebracht.
A bootleg cigarette war in Brooklyn has claimed the lives of at least three people since the summer, the Daily News has learned.
With city and state taxes boosting the price of cigarettes, hundreds of streetwise hustlers are selling cheap tax-free smokes – an illegal but lucrative trade that is becoming nearly as cutthroat as dealing drugs.
One teenage victim, Cody Knox, was buried yesterday, two weeks after he was chased by two fellow bootleggers and fatally stabbed because he was undercutting cigarette prices by a buck, stealing his rivals’ business.
But law enforcement sources said Knox is not the only street seller of cigarettes to meet a violent end in recent months.
There have been at least three slayings in Brooklyn associated with selling packs of untaxed cigarettes on streetcorners, law enforcement sources said.
The business began to explode last year, when both the city and the state levied taxes that boosted the price of a pack of butts to more than $7.
Crafty entrepreneurs began building businesses by driving to Southern states for cheaper nicotine, or enlisting the help of Native Americans to buy untaxed cartons on reservations.
If a dealer is caught, the penalty is just a slap on the wrist.
“These guys are making as much money as drug dealers, but if they get caught, all it is is a summons,” said one high-ranking police official.