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Trial date set for Hopkinton man accused of failing to pay $467K in excise taxes related to vaping business

by | Jul 9, 2024 | Featured: News, News

A Hopkinton man will be tried in Middlesex Superior Court on Dec. 16 for allegedly not paying more than $467,000 in excise taxes on vaping products purchased during the pandemic to sell at his businesses.

Sarah Lamson, a spokesperson for the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office, confirmed via email that Ashraf Youssef, 61, appeared in court Tuesday morning for a scheduling conference. His next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 30, and the trial date was set for Dec. 16.

Youssef was the owner of AAA Smoke & Vape Shop in Marlborough from 2020 to 2022, along with similar establishments in Sudbury and Whitinsville. During that time, the defendant allegedly purchased electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), also known as vaping products, from four different out-of-state distributors. He was responsible for paying excise taxes on these products, which the invoices noted, but no excise taxes appear to have been paid over the past three years.

Youssef was arraigned on June 18 in Middlesex Superior Court on three counts of tax evasion, and he pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was released on personal recognizance.

A joint investigation by the DA’s office and the Massachusetts Department of Revenue Criminals Investigations Bureau concluded that, based on the review of information compiled from invoices, bank records and delivery records, Youssef allegedly failed to pay $467,828 in electronic nicotine delivery systems excise taxes.

Previous court cases exist

This is not the first time Youssef has faced charges in court. In 2013, Youssef and Maged M. Askandar, his nephew, were accused of selling cocaine-laced bath salts out of a Sudbury gas station Youssef owned, according to a newspaper article. Askandar worked at Valero’s gas station as a clerk. Both men lived at the same address on West Main Street.

Both men pleaded not guilty to trafficking in cocaine, possession of bath salts, distribution of cocaine, possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute, distribution of drug paraphernalia and conspiracy to violate the state’s drug laws.

Police in Sudbury and Framingham investigated the pair after teens in both towns admitted that they purchased bath salts from Valero’s since August 2012. President Barack Obama in 2012 signed a federal ban on the sale of the bath salts drug. It took effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

According to drugs.com, bath salts, contrary to what the name implies, are synthetic drugs made with cathinones. Cathinones are stimulants that affect the central nervous and produce a high similar to methamphetamines. Bath salts are usually snorted, but they can be injected, smoked or swallowed, sometimes with fatal consequences.

Youssef also was taken to small claims court on Feb. 3, 2020, according to the masscourts.org website, for a claim over $5,000. A judgment was made in his favor on Feb. 23, 2021.

A previous case was filed in small claims court by John Pasciuti on May 18 for a small claim between $500 and $2,000. Pasciuti filed a notice of dismissal the day after a magistrate hearing on March 16, 2015, according to masscourts.org.

The Independent interviewed Sudbury Police Chief Scott Nix on July 5 to learn of any other possible criminal activity by Youssef.

“We have had dealings with him,” said Nix. “That said, our ability to produce CORI [Criminal Offender Record Information] information is limited. We arrested him a long time ago, but there have been no other crimes since then.”

Hopkinton Police Department Lt. Scott van Raalten in a July 8 email to the Independent stated, “We have no criminal activity in our in-house system related to Mr. Youssef.”

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