Nine people were charged in Prince George’s County with smuggling illegal cigarettes into Maryland.
Almost 15,000 packs of contraband cigarettes were seized as part of an ongoing investigation into the growing and lucrative tobacco smuggling industry. The indictments announced Thursday are part of an effort to crack down on the trade.
"I'm not sure whether it's the bad economy, whether it's the fact that Virginia has the lowest cigarette taxes in the country and Maryland has some of the highest taxes, or whether cigarette smuggling has become more lucrative than smuggling heroin, or what exactly the reason is, but we're seeing a tremendous increase in this illegal activity," Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said. "Today's announcement of indictments is just part of the statewide effort to enforce the cigarette laws of the state, and the partnership that we have with Prince George's is terrific."
Cigarette smugglers make money by skirting state tax. The tax rate in Maryland is $2 per pack, while the tax rate in Virginia is 30 cents per pack.