State News

September 17, 2017

CT. DRS Announces Largest Cigarette Trafficking Bust

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Written by: Reggie Hales

CT. DRS Announces Largest Cigarette Trafficking Bust

Hartford – Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services, Kevin B. Sullivan announced a cigarette trafficking arrest to be the largest in Connecticut history.

“Said DRS Commissioner Kevin B. Sullivan, “DRS special agents shut down a lucrative trafficking operation that was a significant distributor of untaxed cigarettes in Connecticut.”

Wilberto D. Diaz

The agency’s Criminal Investigations Division, Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) Tobacco Enforcement Unit arrested Wilberto D. Diaz, AKA Junior, age 49 of 48 Whitmore Street, Hartford, for selling cigarettes without a permit and possession of untaxed tobacco products among other charges.

Diaz was charged with the following felonies and misdemeanors:
1. Sale of cigarettes without a license, (12-286(e))
2. Operation without a valid Sales and Use Tax Permit, (12-409)
3. Possession/Sale of untaxed cigarettes more than 100 cartons, (12-304(b))
4. Fraudulent Stamps, (12-308)
5. Possession/Sale of Untaxed Tobacco Products, (12-330f)

Diaz faces possible fines of up to $8,000 and 21 years, 6 months in jail.

“Honest retailers are at a competitive disadvantage. When any taxed product is more expensive, there is an illegal cheaper alternative somewhere,” said Sullivan. “We have put more resources behind arresting smugglers and illegal tobacco sellers but the penalties need to be stiffer.”

This seizure represents the largest single seizure of contraband cigarettes in Connecticut, to date of 3,601 cartons. Also seized were thousands of fraudulent Connecticut and New York tax stamps, tax stamps from Michigan, a small amount of untaxed cigars and over $9,000 in cash. The uncollected excise tax the state lost on the seized cigarettes, other tobacco products, counterfeit tax stamps totaled $190,349 on this seizure alone.

Diaz stated he sold 800 cartons a week for over 3 years which equates to almost $4.8 million in lost excise tax alone. Depending on how the products were sold, the state could also lose the sales tax of 6.35%. This was not his first arrest. In 2011, Diaz pled guilty to a misdemeanor, Illegal Sale of Unstamped Cigarettes.
The investigation began over a year ago, when this Agency received information from various sources, alleging that Diaz was distributing untaxed and fraudulently stamped cigarettes throughout the area. During the investigation, agents determined that Diaz purchased large amounts of contraband cigarettes from out of State, then transported the cigarettes back to Connecticut, where he would affix fraudulent Connecticut tax stamps to them and resell the cigarettes to retail locations throughout the cities of Hartford and New Britain. Some of the cigarettes were from Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana and Michigan.

About the Author

Reggie Hales


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