HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Forty-three people were indicted following a yearlong crackdown on illegal cigarette trafficking in Henrico County, Police Chief Colonel Humberto I. Cardounel Jr. announced at a news conference Friday morning.
The suspects used fraudulent documents to create nearly 30 fake businesses in the Richmond area, investigators said. Those bogus businesses would purchase massive amounts of tax-exempt cigarettes, which would then be moved out of state and resold at a big mark up.
"This investigation encompassed over 600,000 cartons of cigarettes with an estimated value in excess of $30,000,000," Henrico Police spokesman Lt. Chris Garrett said.
Police said cigarette trafficking is a more serious crime than it sounds, because it has been directly linked to robberies and shootings in the county.
“We saw some violent encounters several years ago, which dealt around illegal cigarette trafficking and made a decision that were not going to tolerate that kind of action here in Henrico County," HCPD Investigative Bureau Deputy Chief Mike Palkovics said.
Palkovics said 19 of the 43 suspects are in custody.
Henrico Police, Virginia State Police, the FBI, and Homeland Security all contributed to the investigation.
This is a developing story.