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Virginia crime panel examining cigarette trafficking

September 6, 2012 | Virginia News

Cigarette smuggling has become so lucrative that organized crime is getting involved, and many former drug dealers have switched to peddling contraband smokes instead of narcotics, the Virginia State Crime Commission was told Wednesday.

BY LARRY O'DELL
The Associated Press

The General Assembly last winter directed the commission to study illegal cigarette trafficking and make recommendations before the 2013 legislative session, which begins in January. The commission's staff conducted the investigation and will present its recommendations at the next meeting in November.

G. Stewart Petoe, the commission's legal affairs director, said the amount of money cigarette smugglers can make is staggering. That's because they can buy a pack of premium cigarettes for about $5.55 in Virginia and sell it for a big profit on the black market in New York City, where a higher cigarette excise tax pushes the retail price to about $14 a pack.

Smuggle enough cigarettes and the payday can be enormous. Petoe said a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent estimated that a car can carry 10 cases of cigarettes — there are 60 cartons in a case — with an estimated profit of $34,000. Upgrade to a van, and 50 cases can turn a $170,000 profit. A large truckload can haul 800 cases and net a profit of $4 million.

 

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