– Sting Operation Nets Nearly 25,000 Packs of Contraband Worth More than $150K –
Annapolis, Md. (April 22, 2014) –Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that members of his Field Enforcement Division arrested a man from New Jersey and three men from New York accused of bringing loads of cigarettes from Virginia into Maryland. The men were arrested during a sting operation conducted from April 15 to 18 in Worcester County. Agents seized a total of 24,750 packs of contraband cigarettes and three vehicles. The seized cigarettes are valued at more than $159,000.
“Cigarette smuggling not only takes revenue out of state coffers but also makes cigarettes easily accessible to young people,” said Comptroller Franchot. “I am delighted my agents made these arrests and will prosecute the smugglers to the fullest extent of the law,” he added
Each man was charged with willful transportation of unstamped cigarettes, which is a felony that carries a mandatory fine of $150 for each carton and possible jail time of up to two years. Each also was charged willful possession, sale or offer to sell unstamped or improperly stamped cigarettes, a misdemeanor charge which carries a penalty of a $1,000 fine and possible jail time of up to one year.
Those arrested include:
Hassan Ali Ghamlouch, 27, of Jersey City, N.J. On April 15, agents seized 6,680 packs of contraband cigarettes and a 2011 GMC Denali with New Jersey registration during the stop on U.S. Route 13 near Market Street in Pocomoke City. The confiscated cigarettes are worth $43,086 . Ghamlouch was arrested, charged and taken before a Worcester County Court Commissioner for a bail hearing. He was released on $5,000 unsecured bond.
Mohamed Ali Mohsin Elroubat, 21, of Brooklyn, N.Y. On April 18, agents seized 4,480 packsof contraband cigarettes and a 2013 Volkswagen Passat with Virginia registration at U.S. Route 12 at U.S. Route 113 in Snow Hill. The cigarettes confiscated are valued at t $28,896. Elroubat was arrested, charged and taken before a Worcester County Court Commissioner for a bail hearing. He was released on $5,000 unsecured bond.
Haisheng Sun, 30, and Lan Kun, 30, both of Flushing, NY. Also on April 18, agents seized 13,590 packs of contraband cigarettes and a 2012 Honda minivan with Virginia registration during a stop on U.S. Route 13 near Sheephouse Road in Pocomoke City. The confiscated cigarettes are valued at $87,655. The driver, Sun, and his passenger, Kun were each arrested, charged and taken to the Worcester County Court Commissioner for a bond hearing. Each was released on $5,000 unsecured bonds.
The Comptroller has been a longtime vocal proponent for aggressive enforcement of the tobacco tax laws and tougher penalties to assist in the battle against illegal cigarette smuggling in Maryland.