HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Forty-three people are facing a total of 743 indictments in Henrico resulting from a year-plus long investigation into illegal cigarette trafficking resulting in millions of dollars worth of cigarettes, according to Henrico police.
Henrico police began investigating illegal cigarette trafficking in the county back in late 2015 due to the violent crimes associated with it, such as shooting incidents, robberies, and burglaries. However, police say the investigation developed into a multi-state operation.
"If you come to Henrico County or central Virginia to engage in this type of organized crime, we will come after you," said Henrico Police Chief Humberto Cardounel, Jr.
Almost half the of the suspects are behind bars, but nearly two dozen are on the run. Like Sid Tfeil, who according to several news agencies is trying to seek asylum in Canada.
More than 20 agencies, including local, state and federal law enforcement, as well as businesses were involved in the investigation. Officials have determined that this was an "organized criminal enterprise."
"I believe it's perhaps the largest case I'm aware of anywhere in the region," said Chief Cardounel.
Police say the suspects involved in this case used fraudulent documentation to create 29 businesses in the Richmond area, and officials say those businesses would then be utilized to buy tax-exempt cigarettes in large quantities. Authorities say the cigarettes would then be transported out of state and then be resold for a "substantial profit."
"Often times they'll go to a location of where a business license is as well and find that it's actually a vacant lot or a storage unit, and not truly a business," said Deputy Chief Mike Palkovics with Henrico Police Department's Investigative Bureau.
Police say the investigation involves over 600,000 cartons with an estimated value of $30,000,000.
The following agencies have contributed in the investigation:
Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms - Richmond
Federal Bureau of Investigation - Richmond
Federal Bureau of Investigation - Washington
Homeland Security Investigations - Richmond
Homeland Security Investigations - Washington
Internal Revenue Service - Richmond
U.S. Department of State
Maryland Comptroller's Office
Maryland State Police
Virginia Office of the Attorney General
Virginia Department of Taxation
Virginia State Corporation of Commission
Virginia State Police
Albemarle County Police Department
Chesterfield County Police Department
Colonial Heights Police Department
Fairfax County Police Department
Hanover County Sheriff's Office
Richmond City Police Department
Altria - Brand & Trade Channel Integrity Unit
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