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Posted August 21, 2012 | comments 6 Comments

Five from New York accused of illegal cigarette sales

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

Five men from New York City face charges in Shenandoah County linking them to an alleged scheme to sell thousands of packs of untaxed cigarettes, according to authorities.

Maj. Scott Proctor of the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office identified the five men arrested Aug. 5 as Jose Daniel Utate-Hidalgo, 38; Jose Edwin Guzman, 38; John Taveras, 40; Vidal Rodriquez, 39; and Jose Peralta, 44.

Proctor said Shenandoah County sheriff's deputies seized at least three vehicles and more than 15,000 packs of cigarettes as evidence at the arrest scene.

Proctor said the arrests grew out of information received earlier this year by investigators about several people believed to be selling untaxed cigarettes.

Investigators "observed this group of individuals on more than one occasion transferring the (cigarettes) from one vehicle to another at a location west of Mount Jackson," Proctor said.

Investigators arrested several members of the group in the parking lot of a utility business Proctor said. The more than 15,000 packs of cigarettes were discovered at the same time the suspects were taken into custody, Proctor said.

"In the course of working that one case, another vehicle pulled into the parking lot to conduct the same kind of transaction," Proctor said.

Those in the second vehicle were also arrested, he said.

Utate-Hildago, Guzman, Rodriquez and Peralta were all charged with felony conspiracy to sell cigarettes without a stamp. Taveras was charged with felony selling of cigarettes without a stamp.

Proctor said all the suspects except Rodriquez have been released on bail. Rodriquez is being held under a U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement detaining order with a $20,000 bond, according to Proctor.

The suspects are scheduled to appear at 9 a.m. Friday in Shenandoah County General District Court.

Proctor said the utility business where the arrests were made has no connection to the crime.

Several recent cases filed in U.S. District Court have involved defendants accused of buying millions of dollars of cigarettes in Virginia and selling them in New York state and New York City.

Federal prosecutors have described the schemes as attempts to make enormous profits from the difference in the price of a carton of cigarettes in Virginia compared to states and cities with much higher cigarette taxes.

6 Comments | Leave a comment

    I'm not a tobbacoo user, but wow. If you can get tobbaco cheaper somewhere else there is going to be this smuggling problem.....i guess you can call it smuggling! I see the stores across the potomac river from maryland in loudoun county having to restock their cigarrates....so many daily. I guess, tobacco taxed less down here in the growing states?

    When you can buy cigarettes for
    around $40 around here take them to NY and sell them for $60 easily , people are going to try it .

    Virginia's Cigarette Excise Tax = $0.30.

    New York's Cigarette Excise Tax is $4.35.

    Do the math.

    This is NOT smuggling, it is a tax revolt.

    Allen P. I'm in definate agreement with you. I see it more as a tax revolt also. I mean my gosh it is not like tobacco is illigal. Next thing you know they will be busting people for growing there own tobacco, just like the attorney up on fishers hill. When i used to chew tobacco, i bought some seeds and grew them and the tobacco plants did right well, except there were some aphids on the bottom of the leaves.

    ........I meant to say the lawyer up on fishers hill who grew his own whacky weed. Or who knows it could have other people throwing their seeds on the ground.

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