12 INVESTIGATES: Virginia losing millions to cigarette smugglers

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Virginia  could be losing millions in tax dollars due to cigarette smugglers, staff told members of the State Crime Commission Wednesday.

Crime Commission members could eventually recommend changes to Virginia laws based on the reports.

Our investigative team has been highlighting the issue for months.

Lawmakers attended a session explaining how cigarette trafficking takes place and what it's costing Virginia.

Black market cigarettes are a growing problem for the Commonwealth. It's more profitable for criminals than selling heroin or cocaine, and the penalties if they are caught are far less severe. People are even going as far as to counterfeit Virginia's tax stamps.

Criminals are buying cigarettes in Virginia stores, driving them up I-95, and reselling them in higher-tax states, like New York.

There will be another report to the State Crime Commission in November. That is where staff will make recommendations about possible changes needed in Virginia law.

Companies like Altria in Richmond are recommending more funding for law enforcement to fight the problem.

The company also want to see lawmakers strengthen the trafficking laws. Right now, if you're caught crossing Virginia's border with more than 25 cartons, it's just a misdemeanor.

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