WCAV-WVAW-WAHU | Charlottesville, Virginia | News

Crime Commission Supports Stiffer Penalties for Cigarette Trafficking

December 6, 2012

The Virginia State Crime Commission has endorsed tougher penalties for people illegally trafficking cigarettes, a growing problem according to experts.

Virginia has the second-lowest tobacco tax in the country, at just 30 cents per pack of cigarettes. In other states, like New York, that tax tacks on more than $4 to every pack sold. The drastic difference in prices state-to-state is igniting problems for officials as an increasing number of people try to avoid the tax.

"We've seen more and more influence from organized crime and other issues because the amount of money at stake is much higher," said Delegate Rob Bell (R-58th District).

A load of 1,500 contraband cartons of cigarettes transported from Virginia and sold in New York City can score smugglers upwards of $100,000. The high profit potential is welcoming a whole new crowd of criminals.

"We actually have proof that they're taking people that used to deal in guns or illegal drugs like heroin and are finding profit margins in cigarettes to be higher," said Bell.

Bell said counterfeit cigarettes sales and fake tax certificates are problems, along with people transporting and reselling cigarettes in high-tax states, a kind of trafficking known as "smurfing."

The State Crime Commission on Wednesday supported legislation for stiffer penalties and increased jail time for the biggest offenders. The commission voted to increase the maximum penalty for a first smurfing offense from six months in jail to one year. A first offense involving 500 or more cartons of cigarettes would be a felony punishable by five years in prison while a second offense could get those convicted ten years behind bars.

Bell said another measure the panel endorsed would make it easier to confiscate materials used in cigarette smuggling like tractor trailers.

Lawmakers will consider the measures during the 2013 legislative session.

The comments sections of Newsplex.com are designed for thoughtful, intelligent conversation and debate. We want to hear from our viewers, but we only ask that you use your best judgment. E-mail is required, but will not be displayed with comment.

  • Comments cannot be profane or vulgar. We will not post comments that use profanity or cross the lines of good taste.
  • We will not post comments that use hate speech. Slurs, stereotypes and violent talk aren’t welcome on our website.
  • Comments should not attack other readers or people featured in our stories personally. Any accusations should be backed up with facts.
  • Any comment we post will be posted in its entirety. We do not edit any comment that we post.
  • Comments should contribute to the discussion. We will not post comments that don't advance the discussion. Flaming and/or trolling will not be tolerated.
  • Comments should not attack other posters. Let's keep the focus on the content of the story.

    As a host Newsplex.com welcomes a wide spectrum of opinions. However this is a site that we host. We have a responsibility to all our readers to try to keep our comment section fair and decent. For that reason The Newsplex reserves the right to not post or to remove any comment.

    If you have any ideas to improve the conversation or this section let us know. Send an e-mail to webmaster@newsplex.com.


powered by Disqus
The Charlottesville Newsplex 999 2nd Street S.E. Charlottesville, VA 22902 434.242.1919 – Main 434.220.7522 - Newsroom
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 182461772