2011-10-07 / Top Stories

Duo Busted In Maryland Cig Smuggle

Brought In 15,000 Packs of Cigarettes

Maryland law enforcement officials busted a pair of Far Rockaway men and seven others for their roles in smuggling nearly 15,000 packs of cigarettes into the state over the past several months, according to published reports.

Bernard Cribbs, 58, and Feby Pledger, 45, both of Far Rockaway, were among the nine men, over the course of five unrelated incidents, who were arrested in Prince George’s County, Maryland on September 22. They were indicted on charges that they collectively smuggled 14,875 packs of cigarettes, which would have generated $29,750 in tax money for the state of Maryland if purchased there.

“This indictment represents our commitment, along with our law enforcement partners including the comptroller’s office, to prosecute a growing financial crime that has deprived Maryland of hundreds of thousands of dollars [in taxes],” State Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said in a statement.

According to published reports, in fiscal year 2011, $1.2 million in contraband cigarettes were seized by local law enforcement officials and more than $600,000 to date in the current fiscal year. Authorities say, the cigarettes were purchased in Virginia, where the state tax is 30 cents for each pack of cigarettes, and officials believe the suspects planned to sell them in states where the tax is much higher, such as here in New York.

Cigarettes in Maryland are still a lot cheaper than New York, but cost slightly more than Virginia. Maryland cur- rently imposes a $2 tax while New York Sate charges $4.35 per pack. New York City local taxes drive the cost even higher.

According to the report, the smuggling incidents occurred in late July and earlier as law enforcement officials from Maryland and Virginia Enforcement observed the suspects making large tobacco purchases in Virginia and placing them in their vehicles. Once suspects crossed into Maryland, police stopped and arrested them.

“It’s kind of odd when you pull up at a Virginia store just over the border and put 6,000 or 7,000 packs of cigarettes in the back of your car,” Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot said in a statement. “We’re watching that.”

The suspects indicted included Alicia Walker, 34, of Bloomfield, New Jersey, who was charged with transport possession of unstamped cigarettes.

Others indicted with additional charges of transport, possession and conspiracy to transport unstamped cigarettes, include Jose Gilberto Perez, 53, and Eredania Perez-De-Hernandez, 41, of Baltimore, Maryland; Moaze Abdallh Ibrahim, 26, of East Orange, New Jersey; Abdoulaye Akmoudou, 41, of Newark, New Jersey; Felix Cruz and Livinius Agubu, 39, of the Bronx, New York.

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