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Herald-Mail: Maryland seizes $50,000 in illegal cigarettes during I-81 traffic stop

Hundreds of cartons of unstamped cigarettes worth nearly $50,000 were seized last week by Maryland State Police and agents of the Maryland Comptroller's Office during a traffic stop on Interstate 81, according to Comptroller Peter Franchot.

Agents from the Comptroller's Field Enforcement Division (FED) assisted state police Wednesday in a traffic stop and investigation of three retail stores resulting in the confiscations, a news release said.

At 1 p.m., FED agents assisted a trooper who stopped a 2017 Dodge Caravan with Missouri plates for a traffic violation on I-81 just south of Exit 9. Agents seized 7,700 packs of unstamped cigarettes, as well as the van, the news release said.

The seized cigarettes were valued at $49,655, representing a tax loss to the state of $15,400, the release said.

The driver, Jesuel Mariano Paulino, 23, of High Point, N.C., was charged with transporting unstamped cigarettes and possession of unstamped cigarettes. He was released on an unsecured $25,000 bond.

Since July 1, 2017, FED agents have charged 135 people with 126 various violations of Maryland's tobacco laws, the release said. These arrests resulted in the seizure of 156,817 packs of contraband cigarettes and 429,546 items of what the release called "other tobacco products."

The seized items are valued at $1,469,474.84 and represented a loss of $688,888.63 in tax revenue to the state, according to the release.

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