Eric Garner, a 42-year-old Black man selling illegal cigarettes for a little extra cash, was put into a chokehold and killed during a police stop. A cellphone video recording of the incident shows multiple NYPD officers on top of Garner as he uttered his final words, “I can’t breathe.”
Michael Zekry, a 67-year-old white man, was caught with more than 2,000 cartons of illegal cigarettes when he was pulled over by police, according to the Staten Island Advance. Zekry’s haul would’ve cheated the state and city tax authorities out of more than $150,000.
Zekry’s operation was revealed in a careful seven-month long investigation by the NYPD and the state Department of Taxation and Finance, District Attorney Daniel Donovan announced on Friday. There was no report of a physical confrontation in Zekry’s arrest.
Donovan added that authorities also found an extra 551 cartons in his apartment, $40,000 and an electric money counter in his Field Street home.
“You got a good one!” Zekry told police, according to court documents. “I’m out of business now.”
Compared to Garner’s minor side hustle, Zekry would would travel to Virginia every 10 weeks to purchase cigarettes, then sell them unstamped in New York City, where each pack is taxed at $5.85 each, the Advance reported. Zekry told police that he’d make $5,000 to $7,000 by selling cartons between $40 and $50 a piece, which makes the 2,586 cartons the police found in his white Ford Econoline van worth between $100,000 and $130,000.
Zekry is charged with one count of tax fraud and three counts of evading cigarette/tobacco products tax. He will be a class D felon and face up to four years in prison if convicted, the Advance reports. Meanwhile, demonstrations around the country continue to protest police brutality and racial profiling in the memory of Garner, and other unarmed Black men who were killed by police.