The cheap Marlboro cigarettes they were selling may have been real, but they were doing so without paying taxes. Georgia state officials announced last week that 40 of the 50 people being accused in a multi-million-dollar crime ring at been arrested, following a nearly four-year statewide investigation, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“This is pure and simple, organized crime,” said Scott Sweetow, an ATF special agent. “When you have millions of dollars at stake, we get very concerned with those millions of dollars.”
The crime ring includes both retailers and wholesalers who were practicing tax evasion on a large scale by purchasing counterfeit tax stamps, notes the newspaper, adding that the ring has cost the state millions of dollars in tax revenue.
“They gave the appearance that they were following the law, but in fact they didn’t realize they were conspiring with agents,” Sweetow said.
The individuals involved in the crime ring are expected to face charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, and for possession of tobacco with counterfeit stamps.