Deputies break up cigarette smuggling operation

Teaming up with officials from the Virginia State Police, Iredell deputies may have uncovered a cigarette smuggling operation.

Iredell Sheriff Phil Redmond said members of the Interstate Criminal Enforcement (ICE) team spotted a 1998 Lincoln Navigator on Interstate 77 near the 61 mile marker around 9:15 a.m. Monday for a traffic violation.

While speaking with the driver and occupant, the deputies noticed a large number of boxes in black trash bags in the back seat and rear cargo area, Redmond said. After issuing a citation to the driver for a traffic violation, he said, deputies received permission to search the vehicle, and found 16 cases of cigarettes. Each case contained about 30 cartons of cigarettes, Redmond said.

The driver told deputies he purchased them for a friend and was taking them to Newark, N.J.

Because there are no specific laws in North Carolina regarding the transportation of cigarettes, the ICE team contacted members of the Virginia State Patrol and arranged for a traffic stop once the vehicle was inside Virginia, Redmond said.

Virginia’s laws on the transportation of cigarettes are different from North Carolina’s, and VSP officers were able to arrest the driver and passenger for transporting untaxed cigarettes across state lines, Redmond said.

Their names are not being released because of the ongoing investigation, Redmond said.

They are being held without bond until their U.S. residency status is determined.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is assisting in this investigation.


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