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Traffic stop nets 14,000 packs of cigarettes

December 22, 2009

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A routine traffic stop last week on Interstate 81 in Washington County led to the arrest of a New York man and the confiscation of nearly 14,000 packs of cigarettes, according to the Maryland comptroller's office.

Maryland State Police Trooper 1st Class Craig Miller stopped a 2004 Toyota Sienna with New York license plates on I-81 near U.S. 40 last Wednesday. Miller and Cpl. Brian Smith of the Hagerstown barrack discovered the driver was transporting a large amount of cigarettes and immediately notified the comptroller's field enforcement agents about possible illegal activity, according to a release from the comptroller's office.

Shao F. Ni, of Staten Island, N.Y., was charged with a felony count of transporting contraband cigarettes and misdemeanor possession of contraband cigarettes in Maryland, according to the release.

When comptroller's agents arrived on the scene, they seized 13,803 packs of illegal cigarettes, valued at nearly $80,000, the release states.

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Ni was taken before a district court commissioner and remanded to the Washington County Detention Center on $15,000 bond. He was released on bond Dec. 17, according to a spokesman at the Washington County Detention Center.

The contraband cigarettes and the vehicle were seized as evidence, and are subject to state and federal forfeiture laws, according to the release.

Conviction on a felony transporting charge carries a $50 per-carton fine and/or two years imprisonment. Conviction on a misdemeanor possession offense carries a $1,000 fine and/or imprisonment not exceeding one year.

Since July 1, Maryland comptroller agents have arrested 48 people for tobacco violations and seized 41,688 packs of contraband cigarettes valued at nearly $260,000, the release said.

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