Counterfeit Cigarettes Seized

China has the reputation of producing cheaper, fake versions of US products and the higher the price differential between these counterfeits and the authorized versions, the higher the incentive to smuggle them in. In Rhode Island, a package of brand name cigarettes costs more than $8 retail with several dollars of taxes included in that. The cost to make the product can be as low as a tenth of that, especially if they are being manufactured overseas and delivered by container ship.

The United States Attorney for the District of Rhode Island, recently reported on Lin Xiao Wei, a 32-year-old Chinese national who pleaded guilty in Providence to smuggling counterfeit tobacco products. He did the deed through the normal channels – paid for a 20-foot cargo container on a boat and brought the smokes in just like any other product in commerce.

Wei didn’t limit himself to counterfeit cigarettes, but also ordered bogus “leather products” according to the news release. The fake cigarettes were packaged to mimic Marlboros, a popular and expensive brand.

”According to information presented to the court, on June 3, 2012, Wei met at a Miami hotel with a confidential informant who was working with investigators, and an undercover FDA-OCI Task Force agent from Rhode Island. Wei discussed the shipment of the fraudulent tobacco products, as well as previous shipments of counterfeit pharmaceutical products and the availability of other fraudulent products.”

Sentencing will be next month and Wei faces 3 years in prison and fines.

The fact that Rhode Island was the destination state (although the merchandise was coming through Miami) is significant. We have some of the highest cigarette prices in the US (among the top 5) and very high per-pack taxes as well. This has led to not only international smuggling, but illegal transport of cigarettes between states. Some smokers will even order cigarettes over the Internet to avoid state charges.

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