A multi-jurisdictional operation involving state and local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors shut down a major stolen cigarette operation that spanned 15 Florida counties.
"Operation Up In Smoke," a month long investigation, resulted in over 17 arrests and 135 separate charges.
Detectives identified stores illegally purchasing stolen cigarettes within Hillsborough County. Detectives obtained search warrants at 15 stores and 18 arrest warrants.
During the investigation, detectives sold 170 cartons of cigarettes to the stores and received $3,620 for the cigarettes which had a retail value of $10,880.
"Shutting down this illegal Cigarette ring levels the playing field for businesses who do the right thing by following the law and complying with our regulations. This is a win for everyone." said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.
During the operation, the following items were seized:
- Approximately $60,000 cash
- 4 firearms
- marijuana (various forms including plant material, oils, creams, edibles and capsules)
- synthetic marijuana
- 142 stolen packs of cigarettes (sold by detectives)
- miscellaneous paraphernalia
Fifteen individuals were arrested during the operation. One outstanding warrant remains for Jihad Nawabeet, a clerk at Snack Attack store located at 6824 North 50th Street.
The arrests were made at the following locations:
Targeted Stores involved in Operation “Up In Smoke”
- 2K Express – 1411 East Hillsborough Avenue
- B & R Market – 13002 North 15th Street
- Best Value Grocery – 7015 North Himes Avenue
- Billionair Smoke Shop – 1214 East Dr. King Boulevard
- BP Gas Station – 1005 Lithia Pinecrest Road
- Highland Pine Market – 3011 Melburne Boulevard
- Lithia Smoke Shop (Puff & Stuff) – 1001 Lithia Pinecrest Road
- Marathon Gas Station – 5701 Memorial Highway
- Shell Gas Station – 7615 Gunn Highway
- Shop Rite – 7027 North Himes Avenue
- Smoke Casa & More – 2500 East Busch Boulevard
- Snack Attack – 6824 North 50th Street
- Southern Vibez – 7230 South US Highway 301
- The 813 Star – 6904 North 56th Street
- The Castle Smoke Shop – 8872 North Florida Avenue
"This is a textbook example of how inter-agency cooperation makes not only Hillsborough County safer, but the entire State. Crime doesn't stop at our County line even if our jurisdiction may," Sheriff Chronister said. "Today it was cigarettes, but tomorrow it could be anything and joint operations like this show we can make it work successfully and ultimately our communities benefit throughout the region."
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