Dec 28, 2019 Cigarette crimes in Virginia addressed by Fairfax criminal lawyer
Cigarettes gray & black market activity can bring Virginia criminal prosecution, says Fairfax criminal lawyer
Cigarettes are big business in Virginia. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that resellers can be attracted to Virginia’s relatively low tobacco prices. Tax and criminal activity funding concerns lead Virginia law enforcement authorities to monitor people buying tobacco in large bulk from retailers in the state.
Possession with intent to distribute at least two hundred cartons of cigarettes is a Virginia Class 6 felony
Possessing with intent to distribute over 25 but fewer than two hundred cartons of “tax-paid cigarettes” in Virginia is a Class 1 misdemeanor for a first offense and a Class 6 felony for any second or subsequent offense. The same crime involving 200 or more cartons is Class 6 felony and Class 5 felony for a second or subsequent offense. Va. Code § 58.1-1017.1.
How do police identify such suspects? It can start by monitoring tobacco purchases from the parking lots of very active retailers, and then tailing the large purchasers to see if they visit multiple tobacco sellers, seeing that a legitimate Virginia tobacco seller is unlikely to agree to sell more cartons than it deems sufficient for personal use only. Even a heavy smoker — let us say smoking as many as five packs a day — will not use more than around 15 cartons of cigarettes in a month and 180 cartons in a year for personal use, which is under the above-reference 200-carton felony threshold.
Buying tobacco with an invalid sales tax exemption document is a crime
Virginia law also makes it a crime to purchase cigarettes with an invalid sales tax exemption document, whether that invalid document be a “forged business license, a business license obtained under false pretenses, a forged or invalid Virginia sales and use tax exemption certificate, a forged or invalid Virginia cigarette exemption certificate, or a Virginia sales and use tax exemption certificate obtained under false pretenses.” Using an invalid sales tax exemption document for purchasing 25 or fewer cartons is a Class 1 misdemeanor for a first offense and a Class 6 felony for a second or subsequent offense. The same crime involving more than 25 cartons is a Class 6 felony for a first offense and a Class 5 felony for a second or subsequent offense. Va. Code § 58.1-1017.3.
Selling one’s retail business precludes using that sold business’s credentials to purchase tax-exempt tobacco
Sidi O. Jiddou sold his tobacco shop, and after making that sale purchased 240 cigarette cartons at the tax-exempt purchase fee. A jury convicted Jiddou of “two counts of fraudulently purchasing cigarettes in violation of Code § 58.1-1017.3, three counts of possessing with the intent to distribute tax-paid, contraband cigarettes in violation of Code § 58.1-1017.1, and two counts of money laundering in violation of Code § 18.2-246.3.” Affirming Jiddou’s conviction, the Virginia Court of Appeals said that the evidence was sufficient to convict for all counts, and that his not having reported his business sale to the state authorities did not save him from a conviction of the first set of counts. Jiddou v. Commonwealth, ___ Va. App. ___ (Dec. 27, 2019).
Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz pursues your best defense against felony, misdemeanor and DUI prosecutions. To discuss your case with Jon Katz, please call his staff at 703-383-1100 to schedule a confidential consultation.