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Airport officials bust man with 18,480 cigarettes

Friday - 3/9/2012, 11:17am  ET

Cigarettes512.jpg
The cigarettes were purchased in Vietnam before the man flew through Japan to the U.S. (Courtesy U.S. Department of Homeland Security)

WASHINGTON - Dulles Airport officials seized 18,480 cigarettes Monday from a man returning to the U.S. from Vietnam.

The man, who flew through Japan on his way to the U.S., initially said he had fish and cigarettes in his luggage, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

A Customs and Border Protection official referred him to a secondary agricultural inspection, where an X-ray revealed 924 individual packs of cigarettes inside almost all 10 pieces of his luggage. Most of the packs were wrapped in blankets.

Customs officials seized the cigarettes because the man failed to declare them properly upon entering the U.S. He repeatedly declared only two to three cartons of cigarettes.

The large amount of cigarettes led customs officials to believe the man intended to import the cigarettes for resale, rather than smoking them all himself. However, he didn't have an import permit from the U.S. Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Bureau.

"There are completely legal options to import large quantities of commercial goods into the United States, but concealing 924 loose packs of cigarettes inside luggage and importing it without appropriate permits isn't one," Christopher Hess, customs and border protection port director for Washington, D.C., said in a news release.

The cigarettes, purchased in Vietnam, included brand names like Marlboro, Kent and White Horse.

A drug-sniffing dog found no narcotics in the luggage. Officers have released the man, a permanent U.S. resident living in Washington, D.C.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)