Why did this Staten Island man get different treatment by police over cigarettes?

Michael Zekry

The death of Eric Garner for selling loose cigarettes has riveted the nation. The incident was recorded on video and has been the subject of widespread protests throughout the country. But one Staten Island man caught with cigarettes did not suffer the same fate as Garner. Instead he was allowed to roam free and continue his criminal enterprise with the full knowledge of the police and District Attorney.

Michael Zekry, age 67, was caught by police with more than 2,500 cartons of untaxed cigarettes in his van. According to law enforcement officials, they had been keeping tabs on Zekry’s criminal activities since May of 2014. Like Eric Garner, he was well known to police as a cigarette hustler but on a much larger scale. Zekry’s load of cigarettes would account for 517,200 “loosies” and an estimated loss of tax revenue of $150,000 to the city and state of New York.  But unlike Garner, Zekry, when arrested, was treated humanely and civilly by law enforcement. Zekry even told police “I go to Virginia every 10 weeks, I make $5,000 to $7,000 on a load, a carton sells between $40 to $50, you got a good one! I’m out of business now.”

Law enforcement has made no comment on why there was a difference between Eric Garner’s arrest and that of Michael Zekry.

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