Chance of large profits lures some through Md. for cigarette smuggling

HARFORD COUNTY -
A man driving from New Jersey was caught with what amounts to more than $77,000 of contraband in his vehicle, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.
 
They're commonly called untaxed cigarettes, and people who transport them could even face jail time, but the profits may be too much of a lure.
 
Maryland Comptroller General Peter Franchot said the bust meant the state lost out on $24,000 in taxes.
 
I-95 is a known route for contraband smugglers, transporting anything from drugs to guns to cigarettes. In the case of 53-year-old Issaam Ali Ahmed, police say one of those equaled big money.
 
Ahmed drove from North Carolina, this week, intending to get to New Jersey, according to a police spokesman. On his way through Harford County, an MDTA officer stopped him for speeding, and the officer noticed something odd and searched the vehicle.
 
Police said they confiscated more than 1,000 cartons of cigarettes, all untaxed, with a retail value of more than $77,000.
 
"It happens. Not every day, but it happens. Officers tend to look for that stuff," said Lt. Kevin Ayd, a police spokesman.
 

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms calls the sale of contraband cigarettes a black market. Movers typically buy cigarettes in a state where taxes are low. At $0.45  per pack, North Carolina is among the nation's lowest.
 
Smugglers then sell them in states like New York and New Jersey where taxes are much higher for a profit, according to the ATF. Sixty cartons, could yield as much as $5,200. Police say Ahmed had 1,200 cartons on his way to New jersey.
 
Ahmed is charged with a felony and faces a $300 fine for each carton, under state law, and up to two years in prison.
 
Online court records show the incident was the second time he was caught. Ahmed was released from the Harford County detention center and is pending a trial.
 
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