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RICHMOND, Va. -- In its continued fight against sellers of counterfeit brand cigarettes, Philip Morris USA has filed suit against seven China-based online retailers for selling fake versions of Marlboro brand cigarettes to California buyers. The legal action marks the first time a U.S. company has sold a China-based Web site for selling counterfeit cigarettes to American consumers, the company said.
In addition, the locally headquartered cigarette manufacturer filed lawsuits against eight retailers who recently sold counterfeit versions of the Marlboro brand cigarettes to Los Angeles-area consumers.
"The sale of counterfeit cigarettes defrauds adult smokers who believe they are buying genuine Marlboro cigarettes, resulting insignificant lost revenue for the state, and is often driven by organized crime syndicates," said Joe Murillo, vice president and associate general counsel, Altria Client Services speaking in behalf of PM USA. "The sale of counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes to U.S. consumers through China-based Web sites is an emerging problem. Selling counterfeit cigarettes is illegal and we will continue to evolve our approach to take appropriate action to protect our brands."
The lawsuits come after several months of investigation involving the Los Angeles County Sheriff's office and other law enforcement agencies. The investigation led to 10 arrests and the seizure of more than 9,200 packs of counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes.
Since 2002, PM USA has sued more than 2,800 retailers in California for selling counterfeit PM USA-branded cigarettes, as well as seven Web sites.