Comptroller Announces Successful Year for Crackdown on Illegal Alcohol, Cigarette and Fuel

Annapolis, MD (July 31, 2007) – Emphasizing his commitment to vigilant enforcement of the state’s tax laws, Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced the fiscal year 2007 results of his office’s enforcement activity to get illegal alcohol, tobacco and motor fuel off Maryland streets. Making the announcement in one of the office’s holding facilities for contraband products, Franchot praised the work of his agents and local law enforcement officials in working together to protect law abiding businesses from law breakers.

“Vigorously enforcing the tax laws of this state and protecting honest Maryland business from the scourge of tax scofflaws remains a top priority,” said Comptroller Peter Franchot. “I am very proud of the work our field enforcement officers have done and the results from this past fiscal year are a testament to their efforts. I also applaud local law enforcement agencies across the state for working in partnership with our office to make sure that we send a message loud and clear that we will not tolerate this type of activity.”

For the fiscal year 2007, which ended on July 1, a total of 50,392 packs of cigarettes valued at $207,145.82 were confiscated along with $174,897.55 worth of alcohol products, which include wine, distilled liquor and beer. Agents also made 359 arrests for motor fuel violations, a 131 arrest increase from the previous fiscal year. In addition, over $1.4 million of delinquent sales and use tax was collected by the office, all of which goes to the state’s general fund.

Contraband alcohol and tobacco products are retained by the Comptroller’s Office as evidence against a defendant until a pending case is adjudicated. If the defendant is found innocent of charges, then the products are returned to the owner. However, if the defendant is found guilty, the evidence is turned over to the Comptroller’s Office which is required by state law to sell the product, with the exception of beer due to shorter shelf life. In order to bid on the product, one must have a Maryland retailer or wholesaler license for either alcohol or tobacco. All money collected from sales then goes back into the general fund.

In recent years, the Comptroller’s Office has increased its enforcement efforts to crack down on the sale of illegal cigarettes and alcohol. With a looming $1.4 billion deficit, the Comptroller pledged to continue working with local law enforcement officials to ensure that the state and local jurisdictions get the revenue they are due.

“Stricter enforcement of existing tax laws is one method that can help solve the structural deficit. These results are another example of how our office is committed to making sure that all Marylanders pay their fair share of taxes,” said the Comptroller.

The Comptroller encouraged local law enforcement officials to contact his office at 410-260-7388 regarding anything they may feel relevant to efforts in enforcing the laws pertaining to alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and/or motor fuel. This includes partnering with the Comptroller’s Office in the area of cigarette sales to minors. The Comptroller is responsible for not only issuing the cigarette and special cigarette licenses needed for over the counter sales of cigarettes, but also has the right to reprimand, suspend or revoke those licenses for improper use.

“We stand ready to work with local officials,” said John Horney, Director of the Comptroller’s Field Enforcement Division. “Cooperation between agencies is the key to effective law enforcement and Comptroller Franchot is anxious to spread the word to the law enforcement community that his office is yet another tool available to them.”

CONTACT: Joseph Shapiro, 410-260-7305 (office), 443-781-2244 (cell)

Field Enforcement Division – Enforcement Activity
Fiscal Year 2007

Alcohol

Arrests 73
Amount 278.29 Wine (gallons)
205.18 Distilled (gallons)
5292 Beer (containers)
Value (retail) $174,897.55