12 INVESTIGATES: Cigarette smuggling's link to terror

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Virginia's Crime Commission is considering new legislation to target cigarette smugglers that would make the crime a felony.

Staff told the commission Tuesday, this isn't a cigarette or tax problem, this is a problem with organized crime. The issue even has terrorist links.

Taha "Saleh" Mutaher was arrested for cigarette smuggling in Virginia. In his wallet, was a ticket to the top of the World Trade Center dated September 10, 2001. It was bought about 20 hours before the first plane struck the towers on 9/11. The ticket suggests this bootlegger knew about the pending 9/11 strikes and this isn't the only time cigarette smuggling has shown ties to terrorism.

Last year, a federal judge sentenced Mohamad Hammoud in Charlotte, NC to 30 years in prison. Hammoud was the mastermind of a cigarette smuggling ring. He bought cheap smokes in North Carolina and sold them in Michigan where the taxes are higher. He then sent the money to the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Cigarette smuggling is only a misdemeanor in Virginia. However, that could soon change. The Crime Commission considered Tuesday whether to recommend making the crime a felony.

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