Two Arrested as Police, Comptroller’s Agents Continue Crack-Down on Cigarette Smuggling

- Cigarettes valued at nearly $42,000 seized in Kent County -

Annapolis, MD (September 28, 2012)

Agents for the Comptroller’s Field Enforcement Division, along with the Kent County Sherriff’s Office, seized 7,000 packs of contraband cigarettes worth $42,000 and arrested two people for allegedly smuggling contraband cigarettes during a traffic stop on Route 301 in Kent County on September 21.

“I’d like to thank Corporal Harry Kettner and Sheriff John F. Price of the Kent County Sheriff’s Office for helping my agents continue the fight against cigarette smuggling in Maryland,” said Comptroller Peter Franchot. “As soon as Corporal Kettner realized this wasn’t a routine traffic stop, his office contacted my agency’s Field Enforcement Division and agents were immediately dispatched to assist with the investigation. Every smuggler caught is one more opportunity to crack down on illegal activity and I applaud the agencies involved for helping to aggressively uphold and enforce Maryland’s tax laws.”

Agents charged Robert and Angelica Wierzbinski, both from Flushing, NY with Transporting Contraband Cigarettes in Maryland and Possession of Contraband Cigarettes. The two were released on $35,000 bond.

Addressing the need for stronger punishments for cigarette smuggling, the Comptroller notes, “The current penalties for cigarette smuggling aren’t strong enough to deter people from continually trying to transport cigarettes illegally. Many times, my agency has found those who are arrested are repeat offenders, and that is unforgiveable.”

The current laws make Transportation of Contraband (Unstamped) Cigarettes in the state of Maryland a felony, which carries a $50 per carton fine and/or two years imprisonment; and the crime of Possession of Contraband Cigarettes is classified as a misdemeanor, carrying a $1,000 fine and/or imprisonment, not exceeding one year. Comptroller Franchot supports harsher penalties and stiffer fines for both crimes.

MEDIA CONTACT: Kim Frum, (410)260-7210, (office), (443)949-1583, (cell)