Police provided these photos of the cartons of untaxed cigarettes seized Thursday.
POCOMOKE CITY, Md.- Pocomoke City police say nearly 900 cartons of untaxed cigarettes were seized in two separate busts Thursday.
Police said the first bust occurred shortly before 5 p.m., when an officer stopped a vehicle for speeding on Route 13. Upon contact with the driver, identified as 59-year-old Yossef Dahan of Brooklyn, N.Y., the officer issued Dahan a citation for speeding (73 mph in a 55 mph zone).
According to police, a consent to search the vehicle was received from Dahan, because the officer noticed that in the back seat there were large cardboard boxes covered with trash bags, which showed several cartons of cigarettes sticking out. Police said that as a result of the search, more than 380 cartons of untaxed cigarettes were confiscated, as well as approximately $2,000 in cash.
Both Dahan and his front-seat passenger, identified as 41-year-old Ofer Biton of Israel, were arrested and charged with transportation of untaxed cigarettes and possession of contraband with intent to deliver. In addition, the vehicle was towed away so police could perform a complete inventory search. Police also contacted the Maryland State Comptroller's Office to assist with the investigation.
Shortly after 7 p.m. that same day, police received a phone tip about someone buying large amounts of cigarettes from a store in nearby Virginia. Police said that person's vehicle was later seen traveling on Route 13 and crossing over into Maryland. Investigators said the vehicle was observed to be intentionally driving at a slow speed so that it was impeding the normal flow of traffic.
A traffic stop was conducted and the driver was identified as 43-year-old Lion Forst of Wilkes Barre, Pa. Police said large quantities of untaxed cigarettes were seen in plain view on the rear seat. A further inventory of the vehicle revealed 481 cartons of untaxed cigarettes, according to investigators. Forst was placed under arrest and charged with transportation of untaxed cigarettes and possession of contraband with intent to deliver.
Police also contacted the Comptroller's Office to assist in this investigation.
All three of the aforementioned defendants are currently in the custody of the Comptroller's Office.
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