White Center raid reportedly linked to regional federal sweep

12:35 PM: Thanks to Gill for the photos of law-enforcement officers at Asian Bubble Tea, 9835 16th SW. The officers in the photo are city of Seattle and state officers, but according to our friends at KING 5, this is all part of a string of raids around the region today, targeting alleged crimes including illegal cigarette sales. (UPDATE: Alleged food-stamp fraud is also being targeted here by federal investigators, according to KING’s update.) The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is leading the operation, which it describes as “a multiagency law enforcement operation conducted today involving the execution of multiple search warrants pertaining to the illegal trafficking of contraband cigarettes in Seattle and areas of Western Washington.”

ATF plans a media briefing shortly, and we expect to have more information after that.

ADDED 1:24 PM: Click ahead for the full text of the ATF news release:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Seattle Field Division, together with the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIC), the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General (USDA-OIG), the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB), announced today a large scale law enforcement operation involving the execution of multiple search and seizure warrants in connection with the illegal trafficking of contraband cigarettes in Seattle and Western Washington. The ATF and participating agencies executed 14 federal search warrants for violations of federal law involving the illegal possession, sale and distribution of contraband cigarettes originating in Vietnam. 15 federal search and seizure warrants were also executed on vehicles identified as being utilized in connection with the illegal cigarette trafficking activities.

ATF’s investigation began as a result of information obtained from WSLCB which included several individuals identified as possessing and/or trafficking in Vietnamese contraband cigarettes. While the case by ATF initially focused on individuals selling contraband Vietnamese cigarettes at the street level, the USPIS and ICE later joined the investigation as large quantities of contraband cigarettes were identified as being mailed from Vietnam into the U.S., and specifically into the greater Seattle area.

The contraband Vietnamese cigarettes identified during this investigation and imported as part of this scheme, do not bear valid State of Washington tax stamps. Since the cigarettes are not legally imported or legally manufactured in the United States, applicable federal taxes that would normally be due on them are not paid. Further, because state and federal taxes are not paid on the cigarettes, they are sold for much less than legal cigarettes sold at retail. As a result, this deprives both state and federal governments of tax revenue. Conservative calculations from this investigation estimate a total loss of revenue by both state and federal governments of over $24,000,000.00.

Trafficking in contraband cigarettes deceives and defrauds consumers and steals income from legitimate businesses,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge, Kelvin Crenshaw. “The execution of today’s search warrants represents a commitment by both ATF and its partners to identify, investigate and pursue individuals that would look to commit schemes that defraud our governments and ultimately rob our communities. We will continue to aggressively pursue those who violate federal law and defraud the state of Washington.”

The ATF also received assistance during this investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office, the United States Marshals Service and the Seattle Police Department.

ATF’s primary goal in tobacco enforcement is to enforce the federal laws relating to tobacco diversion and protect the revenue of the federal and state governments. ATF is the federal law enforcement agency with primary jurisdiction over the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act (CCTA) to stop tobacco diversion. More information on ATF and its programs is available at www.atf.gov.

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9 Responses to “White Center raid reportedly linked to regional federal sweep”

  1. The business listed above is also being investigated for food stamp fraud, as well as the grocery store next to it. (see http://www.seattlepi.com/default/article/White-Center-business-owners-charged-with-food-1464646.php)…they have since been charged.

  2. This is amazing. I wander how many people they took advantage of to get rich quick or how many addicts or homeless individuals they enable by cashing out food benefit cards. This is a sad situation for people in need, being exploited for habbit and situation.

    The storefront will be empty on the sidewalk now from the entourage of street people coming and going…

    Thanks to the agencies involved for helping WC be rid of individuals who exploit others. :)

  3. Gee just up the street north there is a bussnes that is braking federal law. When is the raid going down on that one? I mean since your there already why not kill to birds with one stone.

  4. f**k the government..the cigarette tax was arbitrarily imposed as another way to suck money from the citizens. these people were saving smokers money on their cigarettes and making a profit doing it. nothing wrong with it!

  5. It sure would be nice if they would sweep the rest of the block and the next!

  6. huh to bad i went there just about everyday for a iced coffee and ocasional egg rolls sadly enough i know people who have sold there kids food stamps and others who have bought cigarettes from there.

  7. Seattle Cops in White Center!

  8. WC, someone has to do the job!

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