Tobacco trafficking ring busted after multi-agency investigation
Attorney General Sam Olens announced Wednesday via press release that an 18 month prosecution of an extensive tobacco trafficking ring spanning several counties has concluded with the prosecution resulting in the collection of more than $1.3 million in unpaid tobacco taxes and the sentencing of 49 defendants.
The case involved 22 indictments or accusations covering Hall, Cobb, DeKalb, and Gwinnett Counties.
"This successful prosecution is the result of a collaborative effort among local, state and federal law enforcement," said Olens in the release. "It sends a strong message that law enforcement in Georgia will work together to detect and prosecute those who cheat by not paying tobacco taxes. I applaud prosecutor Greg Lohmeier for his swift and aggressive prosecution of this complex case."
The arrests and prosecution were part of a joint federal and state law enforcement effort between the ATF Atlanta Field Division, Georgia Attorney General's Office, Georgia Department of Revenue, the Gwinnett County District Attorney's Office, the Lawrenceville Police Department and the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department.
"The illegal cigarette trade is a serious threat to government revenues," said ATF Special Agent in Charge Christopher Shaefer in the release. "This case demonstrates the cooperative efforts needed to combat large scale tobacco trafficking. ATF remains committed to protecting the citizens of Georgia by eliminating the illegal distribution of tobacco products."
A three year investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Atlanta Field Division uncovered the illegal tobacco trafficking ring. The defendants were arrested on and shortly after October 19, 2011, for violations of state law involving the illegal possession, sale and distribution of contraband cigarettes. The defendants avoided the payment of state excise taxes on cigarettes by knowingly purchasing untaxed cigarettes which had counterfeit excise tax stamps. In total, 50 defendants were arrested.