By Kate Sheehy
Undercover agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Virgina have filtered millions of cigarettes onto the nation's street to target smugglers.
ATF agents in Virginia say the cigarettes were released as part of sting operations that have yielded about five dozen arrests over the past three years for illegal cigarette sales on the black market.
The eastern district of Virginia including Richmond, northern Virginia and the Interstate 95 corridor is a hotbed for the crime. This is because while most states, and the district, have passed multiple tax hikes. Virginia, as part of the heart of tobacco country, only taxes pennies per pack.
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that federal, state and local governments lose out on $5 billion a year in tax revenue from illegally sold cigarettes.
Cigarette smuggling rings sometimes provide funding for terrorists, but are more often connected to organized crime. For this reason, Virginia agents say investigations into smuggling often turn up other crimes.