Thursday, April 25, 2013
© Copyright 2013
Gwinnett Daily Post
ATLANTA -- An 18-month prosecution of an extensive tobacco trafficking ring that covered four counties ended this week, state officials said.
Attorney General Sam Olens said 22 indictments were handed down as part of the operation that collected more than $1.3 million in unpaid tobacco taxes and 50 defendants in Hall, Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties. Half of the law enforcement agencies that were part of the operation were from Gwinnett, including the Gwinnett County District Attorney's Office, the Lawrenceville Police Department and the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department.
Olens said the collaborative effort sends a message that law enforcement will work together to detect and prosecute those who cheat by not paying tobacco taxes.
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Christopher Shaefer agreed.
"The illegal cigarette trade is a serious threat to government revenues," he said. "This case demonstrates the cooperative efforts needed to combat large scale tobacco trafficking."
A press release said defendants avoided paying state excise taxes on cigarettes by knowingly purchasing untaxed cigarettes which had counterfeit excise tax stamps.
At a press conference when the operation was announced in October, 2011, state officials said while many of the suspects were based in Gwinnett, the county was chosen as a center of operations because of a good working relationship in past cases.