Seven businesses were raided Wednesday morning after a nearly four-month investigation into illegal tobacco sales in Hampton.
Police simultaneously served search warrants on the businesses at 9 a.m. They confiscated 4,390marlboro cigarettes from the businesses worth $21,950, according to Lt. Jim Crotts of the Hampton police department.
In May of 2009 agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began conducting smoking operations targeted at illegal tobacco sales, according to Crotts, who said an agent was eventually assigned to Hampton. This coupled with complaints from residents is what prompted police to begin investigating businesses throughout Hampton.
The targeted businesses were Buckroe Beach Market on Buckroe Avenue, Hampton Oriental Market on N. King Street, George’s Deli on N. King Street, Beach Market on Beach Road, Mega Mart on Kecoughtan Road, Fox Hill Convenience on Old Fox Hill Road and D&E Food Mart on N. Armistead Avenue.
The cigarette packs were sold without the city and state tax stamps that are required to be printed on the bottom. The city tax on a pack of cigarettes is 50 cents in Hampton, Crotts said. The businesses collective evasion of city taxes totals approximately $2,195.
In most cases the cigarettes were purchased in bulk at Costco in Newport News, police said. The purchasers failed to tell workers there that the cigarettes were being purchased for resale, which was why they were not marked with the city stamp, Crotts said.
“The reality of it is that people have to pay taxes,” Crotts said. “People who sell cigarettes should have to pay taxes also.”
Most of the cigarettes were sold at $5 a pack, although some stores charged more. When officers were dressed in uniform, they were sold cigarette packs with the required tax stamps on them, but when they were undercover, they were sold the others.
Charged in the operation: Hilme S. Nous, Wendy Tso, George R. Antanuos, George B. Toves, Reda T. Aziz, Medhat S. Sulman and Duane E. Williams.
Nous, Antanuos, Toves and Aziz were each charged with five counts of selling untaxed cigarettes and varying counts of attempting to possess stolen property, according to police. Toves was also charged with possession of marijuana. Tso was charged with five counts of selling untaxed cigarettes. Sulman and Williams were each charged with 10 counts of selling untaxed cigarettes. More charges are expected, Crotts said.
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) joined Hampton and state police in the operation to serve the warrants at the businesses.
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