Cigarette smuggler fined $3K; forfeits $79,000 in smokes
— A man caught smuggling 12,300 packs of cigarettes on Interstate 95 near North East in November has been fined $3,000 and ordered to forfeit the confiscated tobacco, which had a retail value of $79,335.
The defendant, Zorik Pisahov, 49, of Milford, Pa., was smuggling the cigarettes from Virginia, where a pack of smokes retails for about $5.25, to New York City, where a pack is sold for about $14 — when Maryland State Police Tfc. Mark Massoni stopped his 2014 Chrysler Town & County van for impeding traffic and following too closely, police said.
Massoni discovered Pisahov’s illegal cargo after noticing “numerous indicators that he associated with criminal activity,” which officials declined to detail to avoid hampering future investigations, police added.
The $79,335 retail value of the confiscated cigarettes translates to a tax loss of $24,600 for the State
of Maryland, according to prosecutors, who reported that New York City would have experienced a much higher loss of taxes if the tobacco had been successfully smuggled and sold there.
Cecil County Circuit Court Judge V. Michael Whelan levied the $3,000 fine on Pisahov and ordered the forfeiture during sentencing on Tuesday. The sentence was in line with the penalty recommended by Cecil County State’s Attorney Ellis Rollins III.
It’s been his practice in tobacco smuggling cases to recommend a suspended sentence, provided the defendant has an otherwise clean record and pleads guilty to transporting unstamped cigarettes, which Pisahov did on April 19, according to Rollins, who also then recommends a fine and forfeiture. Pisahov received probation before judgment, court records show.
That has been Rollins’ policy since he learned that a portion of fines collected in cigarette smuggling cases are funneled to the Maryland Violent Crimes Compensation Board, which helps victims and survivors recoup lost wages, medical bill expenditures and so forth. The rest of the money goes into the general fund, he noted.
Pisahov was forthright about his illegal activity during the traffic stop, according to court records.
“Tfc. Massoni discovered that the entire cargo area of the vehicle contained boxes of cigarettes. The packs of cigarettes were stamped with Virginia tax stamps, not Maryland. Pisahov admitted that he was heading to New York from Virginia and had not stopped anywhere in Maryland to pay Maryland state tax,” court records allege.
Pisahov also told the trooper that he did not possess shipping papers and that he was not a distributor, police said.
As a result of the initial investigation, police added, Massoni contacted Lewis G. Bradford, an agent with the Maryland State Comptroller’s Office, and Bradford pressed charges against Pisahov, police added.