Illegal Cigarette Smuggling Booms In Maryland

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– As criminal enterprises go, cigarette smuggling is safer than dealing heroin. As illegal business goes, it’s booming.

Alex DeMetrick reports on why Maryland sits at the center of the smuggling trade.

Hundreds of cartons of cigarettes seized by Maryland Revenue agents led to guilty verdicts for smugglers last week in Prince George’s County.

Today another group was indicted for smuggling 15,000 packs of cigarettes into the state.

“We are holding smugglers accountable,” Prince George’s County State’s attorney Angela Alsobrooks said. “We take this crime very seriously.”

The seized cigarettes carry a Virginia tax stamp. Purchased legally, smugglers pay a tax of 30 cents per pack.

In Maryland, the cigarette tax is $2. In New Jersey, the tax is $4.35 a pack.

“New York is the promised land for these cigarette smugglers,” Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said.

All of the cigarettes sold elsewhere means Maryland is not collecting its $2 tax.

“It’s partly selling them to retail outlets that are committing crimes by buying them, and they know they are, and just selling them on their own,” Franchot said.

Cigarette smuggling carries a penalty of two years in prison and a fine of $50 per carton. For some criminals, that’s not much of a deterrent.

“We find a lot of people involved in selling these cigarettes were involved in the drug trade previously, but found this to be less violent and an equally profitable way of making a few dollars,” Director of the Comptroller’s Field Enforcement, Jeff Kelly, said.

To catch them, Maryland Revenue agents stake-out Virginia outlets and make the arrests when they cross the border.

Alsobrooks says agents are prosecuting a growing financial crime that deprives Maryland of hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in tax revenue.

Last year, 1.2 million cigarettes were seized. Just three months into this fiscal year, 600,000 have been confiscated.

The seized cigarettes in Maryland are incinerated.

More from Alex DeMetrick
  • Squaregrouper

    As long as they are taxed excessively, people will smuggle them. Odd how rumrunners went out of business as soon as prohibition ended.

    • ooohdles

      Not to mention they were purchased “LEGALLY” Just like tolls , taxes ect.. Sell our infrstructure to foriegn entties, This madness needs to stop. We have nothing left to dish out.

  • Clifton

    Plain and simple – I hope they get off scottfree.

  • Jeff

    Of course the cig tax is .30 cents in VA. Phillip Morris is located in Virginia and they pay a lot of money to politicians and lobbyist in order to keep it that way.

    • Mr. Right

      no, you you Big dummy; it is that way because Maryland is a tax gauging state!

  • Wheres common sense when you need it

    This is what happens when you are over taxed, over feed, over charged, over regulated, etc. People will still get what they want and leave the State and their money hoarding polititians in the dust. I guess if you stop and think about it, our government is spurring economical growth with these stupid policies that they continue to put in place!

  • Casey

    What I don’t get is why do they burn them after they collect them? Why not just slap the $2 on them and sell them?!

    • Fed Up Marylander

      Thousands of illegals sneak into Maryland each year and OWE’Malley calls them “New Americans”. Meanwhile if you sneak a carton of cigarettes in from North Carolina you’ll be doing hard time. What is wrong with this picture ?

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