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Cigarette Smuggling On Rise in Maryland

21 people have been arrested for smuggling untaxed cigarettes in Baltimore County so far this year.

Cigarette smuggling in Maryland is on the rise, according to Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot.

"We've got an epidemic of this smuggling in our state," Franchot said during a Thursday news conference in Towson with Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger.

Police confiscated 10,000 packs of alleged contraband cigarettes during a . More than 3,100 packs were seized in a stop involving a Honda Accord two weeks ago.

The state comptroller said his office has prosecuted more cases of cigarette smuggling "in the last nine months than we have in the previous five years."

In Baltimore County, there have been 20 formal cigarette smuggling investigations since mid-2006 resulting in the arrest of 28 individuals. Twenty-one of those arrests have been in this year alone, according to statistics provided by the state comptroller's office.

The arrests have resulted in the seizure of more than 100,000 packs of cigarettes valued at $600,000.

"It's become the go to crime for not just for petty criminals, which it used to be, but for big time gangs," Franchot said. "When we interview them and say why are you engaging in all this cigarette smuggling they say there's more money in it than we get from heroin and the penalties are insignificant."

A carton of cigarettes that costs $41 in Virginia, where taxes run about 30 cents a pack, can be sold in Maryland for $62 and in New York for $112.

Franchot praised enforcement efforts in Baltimore County.

Shellenberger said cases of have "doubled over the last several years" primarily because of the county's proximity to the I-95 corridor.

"The penalties aren't great," Shellenberger said. "We have been fairly successful in getting some decent fines in these cases."

Of the 28 people arrested in the county, six people were found guilty of transporting contraband cigarettes—a crime that carries a penalty of a $50 fine per carton and or up to two years in jail, according to the comptroller's office.

Eight others were found guilty of possessing the untaxed cigarettes—a crime punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and or up to one year in jail, according to the comptroller.

One case was dismissed and and 13 others await court dates.

Reader April 28, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Taxing cigarettes as highly as Maryland has, is merely taxing those who can least afford it. People who know how to make money from such demand will look to fill that demand. Whatever % the state is confiscating is small potatoes compared to the amount that is getting through. I don't smoke but you can be assured that if I did I would go around the state's taxing policies in a heartbeat. Beer is my drug of choice and since the state has seen fit to increase the tax on that to what is now 9% I no longer buy it here but wait until I enter Delaware,where there is no sales tax, to purchase my brewskis. Maryland is totally out of control in its taxing policies but the dumb citizens of Maryland continue to pull the "D" lever for these hopeless tax and spend democrats.
moe green April 29, 2012 at 11:08 AM
cigarettes in virginia, clothes and other high ticket items in delaware (no sales tax), gambling in delawre (table games). maryland, taxing and spending ot's way into the poor house. but keep those checks for the stay at home, no work, illegal alien crowd coming.
Suzanne Bair April 30, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Couldn't agree more Moe Green !!!!!!!!
DHAMMER May 03, 2012 at 11:11 AM
they didn't learn any thing during the bootleg Era ,so now we have Tabacco smuggling.Keep raising the taxes and more smuggling will continue.Nothing like government creating more problems
DHAMMER May 03, 2012 at 11:19 AM
OMally for President !!!! NOT!!!!!!

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