By Olivia Scheck
MANHATTAN — Tobacco nemesis Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a $19.5 million lawsuit Thursday against an alleged online supplier of illegal cigarettes and 30 of its biggest New York City customers, according to a statement from his office.
The lawsuit accuses a company called "Cigarettes Direct 2 U.com" of inundating the five boroughs with well over 4 million packs of cigarettes (437,721 cartons), for which it paid zero dollars in city taxes.
The suit also names approximately 30 city residents who purchased smokes from the Kentucky-centered distribution ring, presumably with the intent to resell them.
One of the citizen defendants, who was not identified in the statement, was accused of purchasing 322,320 packs in less than three years.
"Illegal cigarettes cost our City and State billions of dollars, through increased health care costs and by cheating law abiding small businesses out of customers and cheating taxpayers out of much needed tax revenue," Mayor Bloomberg said in the statement.
The mayor's office estimated that this company alone had cost the city $6.5 million in lost revenue.
It is illegal to sell non-taxed cigarettes over the internet or to send cigarettes through the U.S. Postal service under any circumstances, according to the mayor's statement.