Cigarette smuggling in Maryland is on the rise, according to Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot.
Police confiscated $10,000 in alleged contraband cigarettes during a traffic stop near White Marsh involving a Honda Accord two weeks ago.
The state comptroller said his office has prosecuted more cases of cigarette smuggling "in the last nine months than we have in the previous five years."
In Baltimore County, there have been 20 formal cigarette smuggling investigations since mid-2006 resulting in the arrest of 28 individuals. Twenty-one of those arrests have been in this year alone, according to statistics provided by the state comptroller's office.
The arrests have resulted in the seizure of more than 100,000 packs of cigarettes valued at $600,000.
"It's become the go-to crime for not just for petty criminals, which it used to be, but for big time gangs," Franchot said. "When we interview them and say why are you engaging in all this cigarette smuggling they say there's more money in it than we get from heroin and the penalties are insignificant."
So far in fiscal 2012, Comptroller agents have confiscated nearly $1.7 million worth of contraband cigarettes and arrested 166 individuals throughout the state.
A carton of cigarettes that costs $41 in Virginia, where taxes run about 30 cents a pack, can be sold in Maryland for $62 and in New York for $112.