EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 8, 2013

3 Haverhill stores caught selling illegal smokes

By Bill Cantwell

---- — HAVERHILL — Three convenience stores face the possibility of fines or losing their tobacco licenses because they were caught illegally selling cigarettes that came from New Hampshire, police said.

The cigarettes were bought in New Hampshire and then placed on shelves in the Haverhill stores, which means they were not subjected to the Massachusetts tobacco tax, police said.

The stores were selling the cigarettes at regular Massachusetts prices — nearly $2 a pack more than buyers pay in New Hampshire, said police Lt. Robert Pistone. He said that allowed the Haverhill stores to pocket the difference in prices.

Pistone said the stores face the possibility of hundreds of dollars in fines and losing their state license to sell tobacco products. State officials will determine the punishment, he said.

He said the stores are:

Destiny Spanish Market, Winter Street, where police seized 139 packs of untaxed cigarettes.

DJ’s, 363 Washington St., where nine packs of untaxed cigarettes were seized.

Richard’s Variety, 145 Winter St., where 36 packs of untaxed cigarettes were seized.

Local police received a tip about the illegal sales, Pistone said. The cigarettes were noticeable because the packs did not display a Massachusetts tax stamp.

Local police and state Department of Revenue agents visited the stores, saw the cigarettes and took them, Pistone said.

He said it is important for police to stop such sales immediately because they are unfair to stores that are following the law and since the state depends on tobacco tax money to run various programs.

“We’re a border community,’’ Pistone said. “The possibility of this occurring is going to be a lot higher in a border community. It’s incumbent on us to follow up on them, just like tax scofflaws. It can lead to other illegalities and it’s not fair to other businesses.’’