Arkansas State Police (ASP) and Arkansas Tobacco Control agents seized a record-breaking amount of illegal cigarettes on Thursday, October 12. The seizure included 32,671 packs of untaxed cigarettes valued at more than $311,000.
An ASP Trooper who stopped a cargo van on Interstate 40 near Carlisle discovered numerous cartons of cigarettes during a search of the cargo area. The Trooper and an Arkansas Tobacco Control Enforcement agent seized more than 3,270 cartons of cigarettes.
“Contraband cigarettes are one of the leading sources of funding for terrorism in the United States,” said ASP Colonel Mike Hagar. “We will continue to work with all our partners at Tobacco Control Enforcement to expose and dismantle organizations behind illegal cigarette operations.”
The driver, Ali Ali Ashabi, 35, of El Paso, Texas, was arrested and transported to the Lonoke County Detention Facility, where he was charged with Possession of Untaxed Tobacco and Unauthorized Use of Another Person’s Property to Facilitate Certain Crimes.
“This stop is a testament to the importance of strong relationships among law enforcement organizations,” said Trent Minner, Administrator of DFA’s Regulatory Division. “Our partners at State Police immediately contacted Tobacco Control, allowing an agent to arrive on scene quickly. As a result, we made what we believe is the largest seizure of illegal and untaxed cigarettes in Arkansas, saving the state a significant amount of tax revenue.”
The cargo van was also seized along with the cigarettes.
Tobacco Control operates under the Department of Finance and Administration’s Regulatory Division.
Arkansas Tobacco Control oversees 5,262 tobacco permits across the state.