Annapolis, MD – Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that his Field Enforcement Division (FED) officers assisted in the arrest of four men from New York and North Carolina in four separate vehicle stops made by Maryland State Police (MSP) and the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) Police during the past two weeks, resulting in the confiscation ofabout 72,000 packs of contraband cigarettes with a total value of nearly $300,000.

“I’d like to thank the Maryland State Police and the Maryland Transportation Authority Police for their fine police work,” Comptroller Franchot said. “The officers of both agencies are tremendous partners with my Field Enforcement Division officers in helping to combat illegal cigarette smuggling in our state.” 

In each case, FED officers were notified and responded to each investigation. Each man arrested faces a felony charge which carries a penalty of two years in jail and/or a fine of $150 for each package fine or both. Those arrested include:

Yun Wang Ni, 34, of Brooklyn, N.Y. On Feb. 24, MSP Tfc. Tim Erstling stopped a 2016 Dodge Ram van for a traffic violation on Interstate 95 north in Aberdeen, Harford County. Ni faces a felony charge of transporting contraband cigarettes and a misdemeanor charge of possession of contraband cigarettes. FED officers confiscated 19,020 packs of contraband cigarettes, valued at $122,679, and the vehicle. Ni was released after posting $10,000 bond.

Ammar Mohammed Shamakh, 32, Pikesville, N.C. On Feb. 27, MDTA Police Officer J. Willis stopped a 2015 Chevrolet Suburban for a traffic violation on Interstate 95 in Baltimore County. Shamakh faces a felony charge of transporting contraband cigarettes and a misdemeanor charge of possession of contraband cigarettes. FED officers confiscated 20,607 packs of contraband cigarettes, valued at $133,321.50, and the vehicle. Shamakh was released after posting $75,000 bond.

Issam Ali Ahmed, 52, Raleigh, N.C. On March 1, MSP Trooper McNeely stopped a 2016 Dodge van for a traffic violation in Northeast, Cecil County. Ahmed faces a felony charge of transporting contraband untaxed other tobacco products and a misdemeanor charge of possession of contraband untaxed other tobacco products. FED officers seized 28,250 sticks of contraband untaxed other tobacco products, valued at $16,381.30, and the vehicle. Ahmed was released after posting $5,000 bond.

Mahfoudh Sid Ahmed Sidi Baba, 29, Brooklyn, N.Y. On March 1, FED officers and MSP conducted a joint investigation. Tfc. Erstling stopped a 2015 Toyota Highlander SUV for a traffic violation on Interstate 95 north in Perryville, Cecil County. Baba faces a felony charge of transporting contraband cigarettes and a misdemeanor charge of possession of contraband cigarettes. FED officers seized 3,898 packs of contraband cigarettes valued at $27,091.10, and the vehicle. Baba was released after posting $5,000 bond.

For fiscal year 2016, which started July 1, 2015, FED officers have arrested and charged 60 people for various tobacco violations as a result of 79 instances of violations of Maryland’s tobacco laws. The arrests have resulted in the seizure of 104,109 packs of contraband cigarettes and the seizure of 141,385 sticks of untaxed other tobacco products. The seized items are valued at $807,770.