Owner and clerk charged following inspection at Suitland shop
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (October 11, 2018) - Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that agents from his Field Enforcement Division (FED) made significant seizures of untaxed other tobacco products (OTP) and unstamped cigarettes, and executed an undercover purchase of a single cigarette as a result of a planned operation at Tobacco Heaven, a retail store at 4831 Silver Hill Road in Suitland.
Following an inspection on October 3, agents seized 38,270 sticks of untaxed OTP with a retail value of $38,270 and representing a tax loss of $26,789 as well as 272 packs of unstamped cigarettes seized with a retail value of $1,754.40 and representing a tax loss of $544.
The two men who face charges are:
- Mehboob-Ul Haq Chowdhury, 36, of Suitland, owner of Tobacco Heaven, charged with willful possession, sale or offer to sell untaxed other tobacco products; unlawful possession of unstamped cigarettes; and as a Maryland licensed retailer of OTP unlawfully possessing OTP products, excluding premium cigars and pipe tobacco that had not been purchased from a Maryland licensed wholesaler.
- Mohammed Saiful Islam, 24, of Suitland, clerk at Tobacco Heaven, charged with selling unpackaged cigarettes; willful possession, sale or offer to sell untaxed other tobacco products; and as a Maryland licensed retailer of OTP unlawfully possessing OTP products, excluding premium cigars and pipe tobacco that had not been purchased from a Maryland licensed wholesaler.
"Once again, tax cheats show that they have no regard for the law and no respect for fellow Marylanders who benefit from tobacco tax revenues, " said Comptroller Franchot. "My FED officers will continue to crack down on criminals who think they are above the law."
FED Agents and inspectors conduct random routine inspections of retailers of tobacco products throughout the state to ensure that the tobacco excise tax is being paid on all tobacco products sold and all other state laws are followed. Retailers can only be in possession of and sell tobacco products when the tobacco excise tax has already been paid by the licensed Maryland wholesaler that supplied the product to the retailer.
During the inspection, all of the untaxed tobacco products seized were comprised of non-premium cigars. A retailer in Maryland can only lawfully possess and sell non-premium cigars that were purchased from a licensed Maryland wholesaler of OTP. In addition, the retailer must possess invoicing for all OTP inventory they possess from that licensed Maryland wholesaler that must indicate the Maryland excise tax was previously paid to the State by the wholesaler.
To date in fiscal year 2019, FED agents have arrested and charged 28 individuals for various tobacco violations as a result of discovering 31 instances of violations of Maryland's tobacco laws. These arrests have resulted in the seizure of 4,743 packs of contraband cigarettes and the seizure of 169,712 sticks of OTP. The seized items are valued at $200,297.90 and represent a $128,158.80 tax loss to the State of Maryland.