State raids smallThe state Attorney General's Office seized 1,400 cartons of cigarettes yesterday as part of its largest raid yet in ongoing cigarette tax enforcement.
store in cigarette
The state seizure is the largest
so far on cigarettes without
required tax stamps
By Rod Antone
The bust took place at a mom-and-pop store called Cheung Chau Trading Inc., located at 1290 Maunakea St.
"It's the biggest by far, and it's one that seems to stand out because it's like seven weeks after our first bust," said Earl Anzai, state attorney general. "So I don't understand why these people would still be trying to do this."
Beginning Jan. 1, wholesalers, dealers and distributors were required to place a tax stamp on the bottom of each pack of cigarettes sold, with the exception of military outlets. Cigarettes sold at the retail level were required to have the tax stamp by April 1.
Anzai made a rare public appearance at the raid as his investigators loaded box after box of Marlboro, Capri and Benson & Hedges cigarette cartons into vans. State investigators said there were about 14,000 packs of cigarettes, none of which had the tax stamp.
"The tax is 15 cents per cigarettes or a dollar per pack, so that's $14,000 that should have been on the packs," said Anzai.
The attorney general's Chief Investigator Donald Wong said there were three people arrested in the raid, a male store owner and two saleswomen. Wong said the offense was untaxed cigarettes and that the arrestees would most likely be released pending charges.
Anzai said undercover operations on Kauai also resulted in several arrests at two different establishments in Kekaha and Hanalei. Anzai said ongoing investigations are in effect on the neighbor islands and that retailers should know better by now.
"Distributors should have been doing this since Jan. 1, retailers since April 1," said Anzai. "Everybody is presumed to know the law. You run a store like this, you're not exactly dumb."