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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
District of Massachusetts
Joshua S. Levy, United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Friday, March 1, 2024

Two Worcester County Men Sentenced for Trafficking Contraband Smokeless Tobacco to Evade Over $2 Million in Taxes

BOSTON — Two Worcester County men were sentenced yesterday for conspiring to traffic in contraband smokeless tobacco.

Mohammad Hanif Balaparya, 63, of Shrewsbury, and Rakesh Garg, 53, of Holden, were sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Margaret R. Guzman to three- and two-years’ probation, respectively. In October 2023, the defendants pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to transport, possess, purchase and distribute in excess of 500 units of contraband smokeless tobacco. Balaparya additionally pleaded guilty to one count of transporting and possessing over 500 units of smokeless tobacco.

Throughout 2017, Balaparya rented commercial box trucks on an almost a weekly basis to drive to Bensalem, Pa. While in Pennsylvania, Balaparya purchased significant quantities of smokeless tobacco, using his own funds and funds contributed by Garg, that he transported back to his residence in Shrewsbury, MA. Balaparya and Garg then sold the smokeless tobacco to certain convenience store owners in Massachusetts. By doing so, the defendants evaded over $2.3 million in excise taxes that wholesale distributors of smokeless tobacco in Massachusetts are required to pay. The defendants evaded an additional $1 million in Massachusetts excise taxes on cigars and other smoking products.  

During a search of the defendants’ properties in December 2017, the contraband tobacco and approximately $140,000 in unlawful proceeds were seized. The Court ordered those funds forfeited and scheduled a further hearing to determine additional forfeiture and restitution.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy; James M. Ferguson, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), Boston Field Division; John E. Mawn Jr., Interim Colonel of the Massachusetts State Police; and Geoffrey E. Snyder, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue made the announcement today. Valuable assistance in the investigation was provided by the Shrewsbury and Holden Police Departments. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Greg A. Friedholm and Lucy Sun prosecuted the case.


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