Cigarette smuggler pleads guilty

WOODSTOCK – A New York City man pleaded guilty Wednesday in Shenandoah County Circuit to two charges related to his role in a cigarette smuggling ring.

Judge Dennis L. Hupp sentenced the defendant, Young Jin Choe, to four years in prison, all suspended, and four years of unsupervised probation.

Young, 58, was one of numerous defendants targeted over the years by an undercover investigation conducted by the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office. Many of the defendants have been from the New York area, the destination for tens of thousands of cartons of cigarettes transported from Virginia.

The smugglers bought untaxed cigarettes from undercover members of the Sheriff’s Office and sold them in New York, a state and city with high cigarette taxes. The smugglers made huge profits off the difference between the cost of buying the cigarettes without paying taxes in Virginia and black market sales of the cigarettes in New York.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Louis Campola said one of the law enforcement officials involved in the investigation described Young as a marginal figure in the ring.

“He stated that the defendant’s role was very minimal,” Campola told Hupp. “He did not receive any profit or anything like that. Other people got the profit.”

Young, who appeared in court, apologized for his crimes. Each of the charges to which he pleaded guilty carries a sentence of up to five years in prison. Several other charges related to cigarette smuggling were dropped in exchange for his two guilty pleas.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com.