COLUMBUS, Ohio – Inspections of
tobacco retailers by enforcement agents from the Ohio
Department of Taxation have resulted in charges against
four businesses in Jefferson and Columbiana counties.
Agents also seized several quantities of untaxed
tobacco products during a “sweep” series of inspections
in the two counties Jan. 21.
“Bottom line, it’s illegal for any retailer to sell
untaxed tobacco products,” said Bob Bray, the Ohio
Department of Taxation’s chief enforcement officer.
“They’re taking profits from the retailers who are
playing by the rules.”
- Susan Best, owner of Riverside Market, 115 2nd
Ave., Stratton, was charged with a fourth-degree
misdemeanor in Jefferson County Municipal Court #1 for
trafficking in cigarettes without a license. She
pleaded guilty and was fined $75 plus court costs.
- Anthony Dipietro, owner of Canadian Confectionary,
220 S. 4th St., Steubenville, was charged in
Steubenville Municipal Court with a fourth-degree
misdemeanor for illegal distribution of cigarettes.
Agents seized 42 cigarettes from the business. He
pleaded guilty, and was fined $150 plus court costs.
- Alok Chaturvedi, owner of BP Oil, 537 Main St.,
Wintersville, was charged in Jefferson County Municipal
Court #2 with a fourth-degree misdemeanor for failing
to maintain invoices of other tobacco products. Agents
seized 588 cigars, 20 packs of chewing tobacco, 52 cans
of snuff, and 200 blunt wraps from the business. The
case is still pending.
- Leona Swarthout, owner of The Cove, 1933 Dresden
Ave., East Liverpool, was charged in East Liverpool
Municipal Court with a fourth-degree misdemeanor for
trafficking in cigarettes without a license. Agents
seized 32 packs of cigarettes and $40 in cash from the
business. She pleaded no contest and was fined $50 plus
The maximum penalty for a fourth-degree misdemeanor is
a $250 fine and 30 days in jail. The individuals cited
are also liable for the payment of all unpaid tobacco
taxes, plus penalties and interest.
Enforcement agents also seized 84 packs of cigarettes,
37 cigars and 268 blunt wraps at three businesses in
New Waterford, East Rochester and Lisbon. Although the
owners weren’t charged, they still have a tax
The investigation is continuing into a large seizure of
untaxed cigars, blunt wraps, snuff and chewing tobacco
at other locations in Jefferson County. Additional
charges are possible.
“Sweeps” such as the one Jan. 21 are conducted
periodically statewide in order to monitor retailer
compliance with Ohio’s tobacco laws. The inspections
are conducted by agents of the Ohio Department of
Taxation’s Enforcement Division and by agents from the
Excise and Motor Fuel Tax Division, in cooperation with
local law enforcement authorities. This sweep was
focused on border counties, since West Virginia has a
lower cigarette tax than Ohio – 55 cents per pack
compared $1.25 – and Pennsylvania does not tax other
Citizens who suspect retailers of selling untaxed
tobacco products can help stop this activity by calling
a new toll-free hotline: (877) SMOKE-80 (or (877)
Tobacco enforcement efforts in fiscal year 2009 led to
the seizures 180,795 untaxed tobacco products, more
than seven times the quantity seized the previous year.
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News media with further questions should contact Mike
McKinney at (614) 466-5461.