Federal Charges for Cigarette Trafficking and Tobacco Smuggling

With various states implementing high taxes on tobacco products, some people have started a business of trafficking cigarettes from other states, such as North Carolina, where they are cheaper. While cigarettes are not illegal to sell with a license following proper regulations, purchasing them from one state to sell on the streets in another state is a serious federal crime, under 18 U.S.C. § 2342.

If you are facing charges for smuggling contraband cigarettes or tobacco, the lawyers at Tarlton Polk can help. We have represented several clients charged with trafficking cigarettes between North Carolina and other states, as well as the various other federal charges they can throw at a defendant in these cases. 

pile of burnt cigarettes

What are the Penalties for Trafficking Tobacco Products?

A person charged with tobacco smuggling could face 3 to 5 years in prison per count. It is quite common for a defendant to face several counts for cigarette trafficking stemming from the same alleged scheme, so there is potential for a lengthy sentence from cigarette charges alone.

On top of this, the federal government will often stack on other related charges, such as money laundering, wire fraud, mail fraud, or tax fraud. Each of these charges carry very serious penalties, some even punishable for up to 20 years per count.

Additionally, the federal government will often throw in a count for conspiracy to commit tobacco trafficking and other crimes. This charges only requires evidence that a proper scheme to commit trafficking existed without evidence of actual trafficking.

Suffice to say, these are not the kinds of charges you want to face with an attorney who doesn’t have experience in both North Carolina and federal court .

Why Hire Tarlton Polk?

For a case like this, you need a lawyer who has tried many similar cases for drug and cigarette trafficking in North Carolina state and federal courts. Tobacco smuggling is fairly common in North Carolina, as we have tobacco farms where cigarettes can be purchased wholesale with low-taxes. It is common for smugglers to travel to states like New York and New Jersey to sell the cigarettes illegally without paying full tax.

Due to the proliferation of these trafficking schemes, North Carolina has been cracking down on these conspiracy schemes much harder, in an effort to catch potential offenders, even before any trafficking crime is committed. What this has led to is increased scrutiny for wholesale tobacco purchased and for frequent travel between North Carolina and states in the North East. This has placed some innocent people in the cross-hairs, such as having their property seized from their cars under suspicion of such crimes, as well as burdened with investigations.

If you have been accused of cigarette or tobacco trafficking or believe you are under investigation, our lawyers have the expertise to defend you. You can call our office or reach out to us below to schedule a consultation.

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