Two Southland men were sentenced to federal prison this week for their roles in a tax evasion scheme that defrauded the state out of more than $1 million in state tobacco excise taxes, officials announced Friday.
Atif Henan, 59, of Los Angeles, and Samy Girgis, 60, of Norwalk, were sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez in Sacramento to 27 and 21 months, respectively, according to state Board of Equalization Chairman Jerome E. Horton.
The defendants were partners in Classic Wholesale, a Los Angeles tobacco distributorship, prosecutors said.
"Every year, California loses billions of dollars to tax fraud and illegal operators who make up the underground economy," Horton said. "These criminals deprive the state of money that could be spent on schools, public safety, hospitals and other essential services."
In 2007, the equalization board estimated the state lost about $90 million in unstamped tobacco excise taxes to contraband distributors and approximately $120 million in excise taxes for taxed stamped products such as cigarettes.
"We are fighting back by working closely with law enforcement and other agencies to investigate and prosecute criminals, as well as sound the alarm about the damage the underground economy is doing to California," Horton said.