A Virginia State Senate panel is endorsing legislation to crack down on illegal cigarette trafficking and financial crimes against elderly or incapacitated adults. The Virginia State Crime Commission, which backs the bills, studied both issues during the past year, according to the Associated Press.
One proposal would establish a new law against financial exploitation of Virginians whose mental capacity is diminished by advanced age or illness. Legislation dealing with the issue has failed several years in a row as lawmakers struggled to protect the vulnerable without making criminals out of well-intentioned caregivers and others.
The panel also endorsed a package of five bills toughening penalties against cigarette bootleggers, AP reports.
"Illegally-trafficked cigarettes now have a higher profit margin than cocaine, heroin, marijuana or guns," experts told the crime commission.
The commission also believes that the penalties handed out to cigarette traffickers — often less than five years — are too low. With the large profits to be made and the relatively light sentences given, the cigarette smuggling trade is looking increasingly attractive to former drug dealers, gun runners, and other criminals, according to the commission.