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Counterfeit Cigarettes Seized on Broadway

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, February 09, 2011, at 02:52PM
Counterfeit Cigarettes Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

Counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes are sorted in the back of a pickup truck after being seized from a shop on Broadway.

Cases of counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes were seized from Broadway between 4th and 5th streets Wednesday in a raid involving Phillip Morris and multiple law enforcement agencies.

Inspectors from the cigarette giant's Brand Integrity Department uncovered the counterfeit sales and then alerted law enforcement. Sutton said that L.A. and New York are the country's top two markets for counterfeits.

The fake smokes are a big deal for California, said David Sutton of Phillip Morris. "For every container of counterfeit Marlboro that comes through the Port of L.A., the state of California loses $350,000 in excise taxes." For the importer, that container can represent several million dollars in profit.

Much of that product ends up on the streets of Los Angeles. "We think about four million packs of counterfeit Marlboro were sold in L.A. area last year," said Sutton.

Retailers selling counterfeit cigarettes are also less likely to check the ID of underage smokers, Sutton noted.

Two people were detained in the raid. The value of the seized goods was still being determined on Wednesday afternoon.

Update (Friday): The L.A. Times reports today that four people were arrested, with approximately 500 cartons of cigarettes and three guns seized.

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