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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Being in a Ga. tobacco trafficking ring — probably not worth the trouble

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  • Tomasz Sienicki/WIKIMEDIA
A thing I appreciate about living in Georgia (that certain people don't appreciate that I appreciate), is that cigarettes are cheap. Part of the reason they're cheap: taxes are low. Like, 3rd-lowest-in-the-country low at 34 cents-a pack, $1.12 less than the national average. So, depending on the brand, a pack of cigarettes here in Georgia can be cheaper than the tax alone would be in New York, where the excise tax is highest at a whopping $4.35-a pack.

Anyway, this is all to say that hatching a criminal plot to avoid paying Georgia's paltry tobacco excise tax seems misguided. No one 'splained this to Paresh Patel, Nizarali Isani, Shabir Isani or Zohebali Isani.

Yesterday, all four men were indicted on a variety of racketeering and counterfeiting charges for buying untaxed cigs and then slapping counterfeit stamps on them. And, according to the Georgia Attorney General's office, the fruits of their scheme weren't terribly impressive: the Isanis — who were charged in Cobb County — are alleged to have acquired more than 1.5 million untaxed cigarettes, which means they would have avoided paying less than $29,000 in state cigarette excise taxes. Patel, charged in Hall County, is alleged to have avoided paying less than $2,000 in cigarette taxes.

The penalty for faking the tax stamps — a felony — is a prison term of between one and ten years.

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