Schenectady County

Tobacco tax case nets Schenectady merchant

The owner of a Hamilton Hill market has been arrested on multiple felony charges, accused of possess

The owner of a Hamilton Hill market has been arrested on multiple felony charges, accused of possessing untaxed cigarettes.

Saleh Zaid, 32, of Selkirk, was arrested Tuesday in Selkirk, charged with 13 counts each of first-degree possession of a forged instrument and willful possession of a counterfeit tax stamp.

The forged instrument counts carry a maximum of five to 15 years in prison.

The minimum is one to three years.

The charges stem from a Sept. 2 review of store inventory by the state Department of Taxation and Finance, prosecutor Katie McCutcheon said.

The cigarettes were allegedly found at Zaid Discount and Zaid Food Market, both on Albany Street.

McCutcheon said she understands the check was part of a routine series of checks by the department not specific to the stores. During the check, officials found 13 packs of cigarettes with counterfeit tax stamps, she said.

“Each one of those stamps is considered a felony,” she explained.

Also found were 386 untaxed cigars, McCutcheon said. Those could result in additional counts.

During his arrest, authorities also located more untaxed cigarettes connected to Zaid in Albany County. Details on charges there were unavailable.

In addition to the possible prison time, possession of counterfeit stamps carries the possibility of restitution to the state and hefty fines, McCutcheon said.

Zaid is being represented by Albany attorney Philip Miller, who could not be reached. Zaid was ordered held on $1,000 bail, which he posted Tuesday evening, jail officials said.

Untaxed cigarettes are an issue statewide, McCutcheon said, though she hasn’t been aware of many cases locally.

“But they certainly are out there,” McCutcheon said. “We do know them to be used in the Capital District area. It’s something that we’re focusing on and attempting to counteract.”

McCutcheon is the district attorney’s Crimes Against Revenue Program prosecutor.

Her position is funded through a state grant targeting revenue crimes.

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