Illegal Cigarette Trafficking Ring Busted in Georgia

Editor’s Note:  The following article from AP quotes a federal law enforcement official noting that counterfeit cigarettes carry even greater health risks than legal products.  For an in-depth analysis of the counterfeit issue, please see “An Inquiry into the Nature, Causes and Impacts of Contraband Cigarettes” found here

ATLANTA, GA 10/21/2011 — “We catch the stupid, the greedy and the damned unlucky,” said ATF agent David Brewer.

But he says the case culminating with raids Wednesday and fifty arrest warrants was not about the stupid or unlucky. But the greed and the green, and not paying cigarette taxes.

“Some of these people that were suspicious of us, greed always won out in the end. The people that kept coming back, greed is the reason why they did so,” said Brewer.

Cigarettes and cigars in a warehouse were props for undercover deals. Near the end of roughly four years he spent undercover in an underground economy.

Playing a criminal making cigarettes and cigars with fake tax stamps or none at all available to wholesalers and retailers across Metro Atlanta and beyond.

Brewer says Wednesday an undercover partner counted more than a million dollars from six undercover deals in the warehouse.

Defense lawyer Manny Arora says he represents four arrested retailers and Howard Manchel represents one; they say their clients are not guilty.

“If you can tell a fake tax stamp from a real tax stamp you’re quite an expert,” said Arona. “They’re convenience store operators and they’re out there and they re doing their best to supply what their customers need,” added Manchel.

A state department of revenue official says counterfeit Newport cigarettes suspected of coming from China.

Brewer says many of the black market cigarettes in Metro Atlanta these days are illegal Chinese counterfeits; which may carry health risks beyond even the known deadly dangers of smoking.


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