ANNAPOLIS, Md. (November 10, 2018
) — Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that more than 5,400 contraband cigarettes, valued at more than $35,000, were found during a joint operation of commercial vehicle inspections in Cecil County by agents from his Field Enforcement Division (FED), the Maryland State Police and Maryland Transportation Authority Police on Wednesday, November 7, at the Perryville Scale House/Weigh Station along northbound Interstate 95.

“My agents in conjunction with allied agencies work each and every day to catch crooks that try to cheat hardworking Marylanders and small business owners by bringing untaxed cigarettes in to our state,” Comptroller Franchot said. “I applaud their diligence and determination to stop these scofflaws in their tracks.”

A 2002 Vanho commercial tour bus with a Massachusetts license plate, owned and operated by GD Tour Inc. in Quincy, Mass., was inspected. The tour bus was on its way to New York City.

Image courtesy of the Comptroller of Maryland Field Enforcement Division 

A search of the luggage compartments was conducted and 5,470 packs of contraband cigarettes were found in large black plastic bags, a suitcase and mesh fabric laundry bags. Additional evidence linked the driver of the bus to the cigarettes.

The bus driver, Pinduan Chen, 53, of Brooklyn, NY, was arrested and charged with a felony count of transporting contraband cigarettes and a misdemeanor charge of possession of contraband cigarettes. The seized cigarettes were valued at $35,281.50 and represent a tax loss of $10,940.

Image courtesy of the Comptroller of Maryland Field Enforcement Division 

Chen was taken before a Cecil County District Court Commissioner and released on personal recognizance. A preliminary hearing is set for Chen for Dec. 5 at the district court.

In fiscal year 2019, FED Agents have arrested and charged 43 individuals for various tobacco violations as a result of 33 instances of violations of the state’s tobacco laws. So far, 18,704 packs of contraband cigarettes and 186,737 sticks of Untaxed Other Tobacco Products have been seized. This represents a total value of $307,371.35 and tax loss of $168,054.30.