New Jersey man caught on I-81 with over 300,000 contraband cigarettes

Mugshot courtesy of Middle River Regional Jail | photo of cigarettes courtesy of Augusta County Sheriff's Office
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — A New Jersey man was arrested in Augusta County this week with over 300,000 cigarettes in his possession, allegedly on his way to New York City, where cigarettes from states with lower taxes can turn quite a profit.

According to the Augusta County Sheriff's Office, a deputy pulled over a 2019 Ford Expedition with Ontario license plates near mile marker 225 in the northbound lanes of Interstate 81 at 11:56 p.m. on Tuesday night, May 21.

The vehicle was identified as a rental, and the driver was identified as 28-year-old Kahtan Seidi, of Clifton, New Jersey.

During the traffic stop, the deputy saw a large amount of cigarettes in the passenger seat, but they appeared to be partially covered.

As the deputy observed further, he saw the entire passenger compartment of the SUV was full of cases and cartons of cigarettes. Investigation revealed that Seidi was on his way to New York City with a load of contraband cigarettes, according to the sheriff's office.

In total, deputies seized 1,555 cartons of cigarettes, which amounts to 15,550 packs, which contain 311,000 cigarettes. According to deputies, cigarettes in New York City go forabout $13 a pack, making Seidi's load of contrand worth over $200,000.

Virginia is a hotspot for interstate cigarette trafficking, since businesses can buy cigarettes wholesale without paying the state sales tax.

Just earlier this month, the leader of a $30 million cigarette smuggling operation pleaded guilty in Virginia to setting up dozens of fake businesses to traffic tax-exempt cigarettes from Virginia to New York City.

However, even taxed cigarettes in Virginia are under a considerably lower tax than New York City's.

Seidi was charged with one felony count of possession with intent to intent to distribute tax-paid, contraband cigarettes. No information was yet available through Middle River Regional Jail as to when he will first face a hearing.