By Joe Beck
WOODSTOCK -- Two Brooklyn, N.Y., men appeared in Shenandoah County General District Court on Friday, both on charges of selling, transporting, receiving or possessing 500 or more packages of improperly stamped cigarettes for the purposes of evading taxes on them.
Tito Llanes, 47, and Jin Choe Young, 54, were arrested Dec. 6 in an undercover operation conducted by the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office, according to court records.
"Tito Llanes, Choe Young and another individual met an undercover officer and conspired to possess more than 500 packs of cigarettes by purchasing them from an undercover officer in Shenandoah County," the criminal complaint against them states.
The defendants appeared in court before General District Judge Amy Tisinger. Both told Tisinger they have had trouble obtaining or communicating with defense attorneys, although Llanes appeared with his attorney, Jonathan Silvester, of Stephens City.
Silvester said a mix up over a telephone number caused him to miss communications with Llanes until recently and left him unprepared to proceed with the preliminary hearing.
"I haven't had time to review my case with my client," Silvester said in an interview after the hearing.
"It's going to be an interesting case," Silvester added.
Tisinger rescheduled hearings for both defendants for 10:15 a.m. July 15.
Llanes and Choe Young are two of at least five defendants, all from the New York City area, facing charges related to the bootlegging of large number of cigarette packages or cartons across state lines.
The other three defendants are facing a much lengthier list of charges in circuit court.
The Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office has been conducting and participating in undercover investigations into cigarette trafficking in several states over several years. The cases have sometimes involved purchases and sales of millions of dollars of improperly taxed cigarettes.
Defendants in the cases are accused of transporting cigarettes from Virginia to New York and other states with much higher cigarette taxes. The cigarettes are then sold in the high tax states at huge profits.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org