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LOS ANGELES : 7,700 Cartons of Untaxed Cigarettes Seized; 2 Men Held

Two Los Angeles men have been arrested on suspicion of possessing and transporting untaxed cigarettes and alcoholic beverages as investigators seized more than 7,700 cartons of cigarettes that had not been taxed by the state of California, authorities said.

Arnulfo Vasquez, 46, and Felix Antonio Montes, 31, were taken into custody Sunday by officers of the California State Police and were being held in lieu of $300,000 bail each.

The untaxed cigarettes were found as search warrants were served at the Los Angeles homes of both men and at a business owned by Vasquez, State Board of Equalization officials said. Officers also seized $12,000 in cash and 131 bottles of untaxed alcoholic beverages.

“Before Proposition 99 increased the tax on cigarettes, this was only a casual problem,” said Matthew K. Fong, vice chairman of the Board of Equalization. “But as the tax was raised, so did an incentive for some people to cheat.”

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Proposition 99 boosted cigarette taxes from 10 cents to 35 cents per pack. The equalization board estimates that the sale of untaxed cigarettes costs California between $20 million to $50 million a year in lost revenue.


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