Comptroller’s Agents Arrest NY Man for Second Time in Cigarette Smuggling Bust

– Istavan Attila Nemeth stopped on I-81 near I-70 in Washington County

Annapolis, Md. (September 30, 2014) – Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that  members of his Field Enforcement Division arrested a New York man for the second time in three years who is alleged to have brought contraband cigarettes across state lines, from Virginia into Maryland. The man was arrested September 19 during a Cigarette Interdiction Operation at the Maryland/Virginia State Line in Washington County. Agents seized the man’s cargo van and 1,400 packs of contraband cigarettes. The seized cigarettes are valued at $9,030.

“This type of large-scale cigarette smuggling unfairly hurts honest, law-abiding retailers, and even more importantly, if left unchecked, the contraband often ends up in the hands of under-age children,” said Comptroller Franchot. “As always, we will continue to keep contraband off our streets and out of the reach of kids by prosecuting this repeat smuggler to the fullest extent of the law.”

Istavan Attila Nemeth, 69, of Sunnyside, N.Y., was arrested and faces a felony charge of willful transportation of unstamped cigarettes and a misdemeanor charge of willful possession, sale or offer to sell unstamped or improperly stamped cigarettes. The felony carries a mandatory fine of $150 per carton and Mr. Nemeth also may be subject to jail time not exceeding two years. The misdemeanor charge carries a penalty of a $1,000 fine and possible imprisonment not exceeding one year in jail.

Following his arrest, Mr. Nemeth was taken before a Washington County District Court Commissioner where he was formally charged. He was placed on $10,000 bond and remains lodged in the Washington County Detention Center.

Agents stopped Mr. Nemeth’s 2000 Ford F150 cargo van displaying New York tags on Interstate 81 near Interstate 70 in Washington County. This is the second time police have had contact with Mr. Nemeth. On December 31, 2011, a deputy for the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office stopped a vehicle on Route 13 near Whaleyville Road in Bishopville. The vehicle was occupied by three people, including Steven Atilla Nemeth (aka Istavan Attila Nemeth). All occupants were arrested and 5,910 packs of contraband cigarettes were seized. The Comptroller’s Field Enforcement Agents responded, assisted with the arrest and charged each person with willful transportation of unstamped cigarettes and willful possession, sale, or offer to sell unstamped or improperly stamped cigarettes. The cigarettes were seized and the defendants were each fined $3,000.

During FY2015, agents have arrested seven people for transporting contraband cigarettes in the state and seized 22,798 packs of contraband cigarettes. The seized cigarettes have been valued at $147,047 and represent a tax loss to the state of $45,596.

The Comptroller has been a longtime advocate for aggressive enforcement of Maryland’s tobacco laws and an outspoken proponent for tougher penalties to assist in the battle against illegal cigarette smuggling in Maryland.