Federal prosecutors have charged 31 people with running an operation to smuggle cigarettes from North Carolina and sell them in the New York area to avoid taxes.
A news release Monday says that the smugglers would buy thousands of cigarettes from businesses in Fayetteville, then pack them in vans or trucks and drive to New York after stopping in Virginia.
Raleigh-based U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon told reporters that the ring could make more than $50 in profit per carton because of the difference in sales taxes and retail prices for cigarettes in North Carolina and New York. Authorities say the scheme netted at least $12 million in illicit profits.
Multistate raids last week led to more than two dozen arrests.
The defendants face charges ranging from conspiracy to money laundering.