NY officials seize $6.6 million in illegal tobacco, arrest 85 accused smugglers

NEW YORK — Investigators in New York seized a record $6.6 million in illegal tobacco and arrested 85 alleged smugglers in 2017, officials said.

Cigars and untaxed cigarettes made up the bulk of the contraband. Investigators seized more than 1.5 million illegal cigars this year compared with 260,000 last year. The busts were made after Gov. Andrew Cuomo created a cigarette strike force in 2014 to stem illegal tobacco trafficking and sales.

“This illicit activity not only hurts law abiding businesses, but it also places undue burdens on taxpayers due to the loss of state revenue for vital services,” Gov. Cuomo said. “This administration will continue to do everything in its power to crack down on these criminals and help ensure a fair and level playing field for all.”

Investigators also seized more than 47,000 cartons of untaxed cigarettes. More than 20 percent of those were found when officials busted a cigarette smuggling ring in the Bronx.

All cigarette packs sold in New York must have an authorized cigarette tax stamp on the bottom, verifying that the taxes have been paid. The tax is a strategy to motivate adults to quit smoking.