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NEW YORK -- Bootleggers hoping to cash in on the city and state cigarette tax hikes are getting their butts kicked.
There has been a 30 percent spike in arrests for illegal trading in tobacco products, while seizures of untaxed cigarettes are up a whopping six times for the same period last year, the New York Post reported.
From Jan. 1 to May 30, cops from the NYPD's Cigarette Interdiction Group arrested 44 bootleggers and confiscated 12,018 cartons of untaxed cigarettes, said NYPD Deputy Chief Michael Collins.
Some of the seized smokes came from Virginia and Delaware, while others had no state tax stamps on them, sources said. Some cartons were counterfeit brands smuggled in from China. In some cases, the contraband was shipped to New York in plain brown boxes, while other smugglers drove across state lines to collect the illicit cigarettes, the report said.
The increase in bootlegging came after the state and city heaped $3 in taxes on a pack of cigarettes last summer. Smugglers face sentences from probation to up to five years in prison depending on the quantity of smokes seized and whether they are charged by state or federal authorities.