Franchots men seize $75,000 worth of tobacco products in two raids

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (April 18, 2018) – Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that agents from his Field Enforcement Division (FED) have assisted in a traffic stop and conducted investigations of two retail stores resulting in the confiscation of tobacco products valued at nearly $75,000.

At 11:10 p.m. on April 11, FED agents assisted MSP Sgt. Mike Conner who stopped a 2014 Dodge Ram pick-up truck registered in North Carolina on northbound I-95 at Northeast Road in Northeast, Cecil County. Agents seized 10,770 packs of unstamped cigarettes and the truck. The seized cigarettes are valued at $69,466.50, representing a tax loss to state of $21,540.

The driver Nely M. Rodriguez-Marte, 45, of Bronx, NY, and her son, Jose Luis, Galabert-Rodriguez, 21, also of the Bronx, were arrested and taken before a court commissioner. Each faces a felony charge of transporting unstamped cigarettes and a misdemeanor charge of possession of unstamped cigarettes. Rodriguez-Marte was released on $350 cash bond and Galabert-Rodriguez was released on $150 cash bond.

“I appreciate the efforts of the Maryland State Police and my FED officers in stopping these kinds of cigarette smugglers trying to cheat Maryland and its citizens,” Comptroller Franchot said. “Combatting the flow of illegal cigarettes in our state is a 24/7 job and I thank the officers who do it.”

On April 13, FED agents and inspectors seized untaxed other tobacco products (OTP) of non-premium and a small quantity of premium cigars, valued at a total of more than $5,500, during separate inspections at stores in Baltimore City and Baltimore County

Each store’s owner faces a criminal citation of willful possession, sale or offer to sell untaxed tobacco products. They are:

  • Yonas Tesfamariam, 48, of Washington, D.C., owner of N&S Grocery Store, LLC, at 3233 Belair Road, Baltimore; 1,332 sticks of untaxed OTP seized with a retail value of $1,332 and representing a tax loss of $932.40.
  • Dinup Gnyawali, 30, of Columbia, MD, owner of GP and Brothers Inc., trading as Cigs and Cigars, 36 Kingston Road, Middle River, Baltimore County; 3,386 sticks of untaxed OTP seized with a retail value of $4,188.71 and a tax loss of $2,559.41.

Retailers must possess invoices for all OTP inventory indicating that the Maryland excise tax had been paid to the state by the wholesaler.

To date in fiscal year 2018, which started July, 1, 2017, FED Agents have arrested and charged 130 individuals for various tobacco violations as a result of discovering 122 instances of violations of Maryland’s tobacco laws. These arrests have resulted in the seizure of 149,117 packs of contraband cigarettes and the seizure of 420,607 sticks of OTP. The seized items are valued at $1,391,069.34 and represents a tax loss to the State of Maryland $661,091.33.

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