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Hennessy 'Bootlegger' Pleads Guilty to Charges in N.Y.

Courtesy N.Y. Department of Taxation and Finance

A Queens, New York man who purchased more than 750 liters of liquor in New Hampshire has pled guilty to violating New York’s liquor distribution laws. 

Juncheng Chen, 45, visited six different New Hampshire liquor stores on the same day in November 2017, unaware that investigators with the N.Y. Department of Taxation and Finance were trailing his Chevrolet Suburban.

When Chen crossed back into New York, he was arrested on Interstate 95 in the city of Rye. 

Authorities seized hundreds of bottles of booze,including more than 500 bottles of Hennessy cognac.

Just before opening statements were scheduled to begin in his trial on Wednesday, prosecutors from the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office announced a plea agreement.

Chen will pay more than $1,200 in unpaid liquor import taxes, and agrees to forfeit all of the liquor, which will be put up for auction by New York State. 

He’s also facing additional penalties which will be handed down at a sentencing hearing next month. 

During an interview last year, Chen’s attorney maintained that the liquor was purchased “for personal use” and was therefore not a crime. 

Multiple states including New York have arrested alleged bootleggers who stock up on products at New Hampshire’s state-run liquor stores with the intent to resell the product elsewhere. 

New Hampshire officials say the sales do not violate any state or federal laws. The Internal Revenue Service has also questioned the N.H. Liquor Commission’s handling of large all-cash sales at the state’s liquor stores. 

(This story has been updated.)

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
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