Agents made the biggest illegal tobacco and cigarette bust in Maryland history, according to the state comptroller.
The field enforcement division arrested 37-year-old Mehboob Chowdry of Capitol Heights and 29-year-old Monzurul Islam of Columbia and seized almost $500,000 in untaxed products representing more than $286,000 in tax losses to the state.
Authorities believe the suspects stashed the untaxed tobacco in a storage facility in Capitol Heights and distributed it to tobacco stores in Suitland, District Heights and Capitol Heights.
The year-long investigation began after state Sen. Joanne Benson of Prince George’s County took a bus tour of southern Prince George’s County with community leaders.
“We were very surprised to see four tobacco stores in one block,” she said.
Agents discovered the large-scale operation during early morning raids Nov. 5 at multiple locations in Prince George’s County and Baltimore.
Maryland lawmakers recently decided to remove the field enforcement division from the comptroller’s office. Comptroller Peter Franchot hopes the success of this operation will convince lawmakers to change their minds.
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“And realize that it’s a mistake to spend taxpayers’ money to split up an agency like this enforcement division and the comptroller’s office,” he said.
Prince George’s County police, Baltimore police and Maryland State Police assisted in the investigation.