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Police bust suspects buying bulk cigs from Sam’s Club with intent to traffic

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HENRICO, Va. – Authorities recently busted two suspects who they said were planning to traffic cigarettes on the black market.

Henrico Police said a tipster alerted officers to questionable activity in one of the cases.

Officers said that 46-year-old Shawn Anthony Kettles had more than 500 cartons of cigarettes in his possession, that he bought from the Sam’s Club on West Broad Street on Monday.

They said he had the intent to transport and sell them in another state.

Two days later officers arrested 21-year-old Irina Vasilenco, when someone alerted police to a suspicious cigarette transaction outside of the Sam’s Cub on South Laburnum Avenue.

Investigators say Vasilenco bought numerous cartons of cigarettes with business credit cards.

She was charged with two counts of possession with intent to distribute tax paid contraband cigarettes.

And police said they believe she was also headed out of state to sell them.

Henrico police would not release more information in these cases because it's an ongoing investigation that could result in more arrests.

The two suspects, both from Richmond, are behind bars without bond, awaiting their next court hearings.

With a second lowest cigarette tax in the nation, out of state purchasers also often travel to Virginia to buy cigarettes that they sell elsewhere for a big profit.

Thirty-six other states in the United States currently regulate cigarette sales. Virginia's top crime commission has previously expressed a desire to have the state regulate cigarettes like it does alcohol.