Knockoff cigarettes lead to indictments
Smokers of Marlboro Lights may have noticed last year that their favorite brand did not taste good like a cigarette should. It could have been because they were counterfeit.
New Jersey authorities announced yesterday that they had snuffed out a ring that imported tens of thousands of cartons of cheap knockoffs from China.
Seven people from Philadelphia and four from South Jersey were charged in indictments after a two-year undercover operation in Atlantic City and South Jersey, said John Hagerty, spokesman for New Jersey's Division of Criminal Justice.
Three New Jersey troopers infiltrated the organization and bought more than 32,000 cartons of cut-rate Marlboro Lights, 25,000 doses of the nightclub drug ecstasy, and more than 125 pounds of potent marijuana.
Counterfeit smokes have flooded the market since the price of the real thing soared to about $6 a pack in New Jersey, said Lt. Paul Kuras of the state police casino unit, which lead the investigation.
"If you want to make money, it's even easier than selling drugs," Kuras said. "You can hardly tell they're counterfeit. We're seeing more of them on the market today - just an extraordinary amount of cigarettes."
The ring sold them for about $5 to $8 a carton, Kuras said. CIGARETTES made with American-grown tobacco usually run about $55 per carton.
"The ones we got were extremely stale, so they didn't taste very good," Kuras, a nonsmoker, said. "But still, people were willing to buy them for $20 a carton."
The cigarettes were distributed throughout the Philadelphia region, he said.
The tobacco may have originated in China, but the marijuana was from Canada, Kuras said.