A Flushing man, his wife and their son have been charged with second-degree reckless endangerment for allegedly turning their two-family house into a 15-room hotel that catered to Asian tourists. Their next door neighbor, meanwhile, has been charged with illegally possessing untaxed cigarettes out of his house.
The announcement was made last Friday by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, Department of Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri and Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn.
“While investigating allegations of illegal cigarettes being sold out of one location in Flushing, detectives assigned to my office noticed unusual activity at the house next door — numerous people entering and leaving the premises with suitcases,” Brown said. “Upon further investigation it was discovered that the high-traffic house was being advertised as a hotel on Chinese language websites.”
The district attorney further said that, “selling illegal and untaxed cigarettes is a highly profitable tax-free cash business for those involved in it, but it cheats taxpayers and it cheats the government out of much needed state and city revenue. And in this case, it is alleged, Asian cigarettes that are illegal to sell in the United States because they do not carry the surgeon general’s warning were also recovered.”
LiMandri noted that illegal conversions can kill “and any property owner who puts lives in danger in order to line their own pockets must be held accountable.”
The defendants are Qiumin He, 55, his wife, Chun Y Tu, 56, and their son, Xiaoshan He, 34, all of 42-03 Saull St. They are being arraigned on a complaint charging them with second-degree reckless endangerment. Xiaoshan He was additionally charged with second-degree obstructing governmental administration for allegedly interfering with the arrests. The defendants face up to one year in jail if convicted.
The fourth defendant is Qinghai Wei, 50, of 42-05 Saull St. He is being arraigned on a complaint charging him with various violations of New York State Tax Law. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted.
According to the criminal charges, approximately 1,151 cartons of illegal cigarettes, both American and Asian brands, were recovered from inside the house on Oct. 3.
During the course of a year-long investigation of the two-family house allegedly operating as an illegal hotel.
On further investigation, it was discovered that it was being advertised on various websites, including Chinatowninus.com as a 15-room hotel with double-, triple- or quadruple-occupancy options. Rooms for two people were listed at $60 per night, rooms for three people were $70 per night and rooms for four people were $90 per night.
A court-authorized search warrant was also executed Oct. 3, by detectives who allegedly discovered numerous egregious violations, including insufficient egress and lack of a required sprinkler systems, fire alarms and exit signs.