STERLING, VA.—It’s not unusual for cigarette smokers to take a few packs or even couple of cartons of smokes on a trip with them. But one passenger, who arrived to Washington Dulles International Airport Monday from Japan, learned that 924 packs may just be too many.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized the cigarettes for violation of 19 USC 1497, failure to declare, since the passenger, a lawful permanent resident of the United States, repeatedly declared possessing two to three cartons. Officers released the subject, who lives in Washington, D.C.
The amount of cigarettes, 18,480, seemed excessive for personal use and CBP officers suspected that the passenger intended to import the cigarettes for resale in the U.S.; however the passenger lacked an import permit from the U.S. Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Bureau as required by the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act.
"There are completely legal options to import large quantities of commercial goods into the United States, but concealing 924-loose packs of cigarettes inside luggage, and importing it without appropriate permits isn't one," said Christopher Hess, CBP port director for the Port of Washington, D.C. "Customs and Border Protection takes very seriously our mission of facilitating the free flow of legitimate trade and travel; the key word being legitimate."
The passenger, who flew from Vietnam to Japan and on to the U.S., initially admitted to possessing fish and cigarettes. A CBP officer referred him to a secondary agriculture inspection where an x-ray instead revealed a large quantity of individual cigarette packs in nearly all of his ten pieces of luggage. Officers inspected the luggage and counted a total of 924-loose packs of cigarettes, most wrapped inside blankets.
A CBP narcotics detector dog did not alert when it swept the cigarettes.
Cigarette brand names included Marlboro, Kent, Craven, White Horse, Mild Seven and Esse. They were purchased in Vietnam.
CBP routinely conducts random inspections operations on arriving and departing passengers searching for narcotics, currency, weapons and other prohibited or illicit products.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.