ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 11, 2017) — Agents from the Comptroller of Maryland’s Field Enforcement Division (FED) assisted Maryland State Police and the Henrico County (Va.) Police Department, as well as federal and state law enforcement agencies, in a nearly two-year investigation of illegal cigarette trafficking, ultimately involving a total of 600,000 cartons with a value of $30 million.
FED agents assisted Maryland State Police in the arrest of four men following traffic stops in Cecil, Harford and Prince George’s counties. Officers confiscated 23,840 packs of contraband cigarettes with a value of $153,767, representing a tax loss to Maryland of $47,680. More than 20 local, state and federal agencies were involved in the two-state probe, which resulted in 43 arrests and 743 indictments.
“I’m very proud of the work my Field Enforcement Division officers do each and every day to safeguard the State of Maryland and its citizens from those who try to cheat the system,” Comptroller Peter Franchot said. “Be it assisting other law enforcement agencies in a large investigation of this sort or catching fraudsters trying to take money out of Maryland taxpayers’ pockets, my team of investigators is vigilant in their quest to do what is right.”
Each arrest in Maryland and its documentation was forwarded to the Henrico County Police Department. The arrests in Maryland include:
Basem Noffal, 52, of Yonkers, N.Y., who was stopped by MSP for a traffic violation at 9:43 p.m. Feb. 17, 2017, in Perryville, Cecil County. Noffal was driving a 2016 Ford F-150 pickup truck with a covered bed on northbound I-95. During the stop, Noffal was found to be transporting a large quantity of unstamped cigarettes.
Noffal faces a felony charge of transporting contraband cigarettes and a misdemeanor charge of possession of contraband cigarettes. Agents seized 11,450 packs of contraband cigarettes and the truck that was used to transport them. The seized cigarettes had a value of $73,852 and represent a tax loss to Maryland of $22,900.
Noffal was taken before a Cecil County District Court Commission and released on bond. He had an initial appearance May 5 in Cecil County Circuit Court and a trial date has been set.
Adyl Bourzgui, 43, of Richmond, Va., who was stopped by MSP for a traffic violation at 9:01 p.m. May 25, 2016, on northbound I-95 in Havre de Grace, Harford County. Bourzgui was driving a rented 2015 Nissan Pathfinder. During the stop, Bourzgui was found to be transporting a large quantity of unstamped cigarettes.
Bourzgui faced a felony charge of transporting contraband cigarettes and a misdemeanor charge of possession of contraband cigarettes. Agents seized 6,900 packs of contraband cigarettes and the vehicle used to transport them. The seized cigarettes are valued at $44,505 and represent a tax loss to Maryland of $13,800.
Bourzgui was taken before a Harford County District Court Commissioner and released on bond.
On July 12, 2016, Bourzgui was found guilty of possession of untaxed cigarettes in Harford County District Court and sentenced to 365 days with 363 days suspended, one year of unsupervised probation, $1,000 fine and $55 in court costs. The charge of transporting unstamped cigarettes was dismissed.
Mohamed Mohmoud Ould-Zeidane, 40, and Mohamed Bouke, 57, both of New York, N.Y., who were stopped by MSP for a traffic violation at 10:35 p.m. March 21, 2016, on northbound I-495 at U.S. Route 1, in College Park, Prince George’s County. Ould-Zeidane was driving a 2015 Ford Expedition. During the stop, both men were found to be transporting a large quantity of unstamped cigarettes.
Both men faced felony charges of transporting contraband cigarettes and misdemeanor charges of possession of contraband cigarettes. Agents seized 5,490 packs of contraband cigarettes and the vehicle. The cigarettes had a value of $35,410 and represent a tax loss to Maryland of $10,980.
Both men were taken to a Prince George’s County District Court Commissioner and released on bond.
All charges filed against Ould-Zeidane and Bouke were dismissed. As of this date, charges have not been re-filed. Ould-Zeidane’s arrest was not part of the larger investigation.
For the current fiscal year, FED agents have arrested and charged 76 individuals for various tobacco violations, stemming from 82 infringements of Maryland’s tobacco laws. The arrests have resulted in the seizure of 103,070 packs of contraband cigarettes and the seizure of 73,760 sticks of Untaxed Other Tobacco Products (OTP). The seized items are valued at $730,159 and represent a tax loss to Maryland of $248,994.
MEDIA CONTACT: Barbara Sauers, 410-260-7438 (office), 410-212-9414 (cell)