Cig­a­rette smug­gler fined $3K; for­feits $79,000 in smokes

Cecil Whig - - & - By CARL HAMILTON


— 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.

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