Police in Lexington and Nicholasville joined the U.S. Secret Service to arrest nine people and seize cash and cigarettes from a Lexington hotel.
Lexington police say the nine suspects are from Atlanta. They're accused of using cloned credit cards to buy cigarettes. Authorities seized more than 68,000 cigarettes from the Econo Lodge on Athens Boonesboro Road. The cigarettes are believed to have a street value of more than $16,000.
The suspects are: Vante Shepherd, Keon Johnson, Eric Muhammad, Dejuan David, Omar Fandino, Lateef Izuagbe, Deangelo Canter, Benson Brune, and Justin Williams.
Police say their investigation is continuing.
“Most likely this is a situation where these cigarettes are going to be resold on the streets by the pack or buy the carton to individuals who want to get them a little bit cheaper than they could in the grocery store,” said Sherelle Roberts, public information officer for Lexington Police.
Kentucky’s cigarette tax is 60 centers a pack. That’s one of the lowest tax rates in the country
Dale Ferguson owns the Fayette Cigar Store. He says he was a victim of credit card fraud a few weeks ago. He says because of Kentucky’s low cigarette tax, people often buy cigarettes in Kentucky and sell them in other states, sometimes illegally.
“A tremendous amount of the cigarettes in Kentucky go out of state because we're one of the lowest tax states,” said Ferguson.
Lexington police have not said if the people arrested Tuesday have any connection to the Fayette Cigar Store.
Police remind businesses to be on the lookout for suspicious activity, people buying lots of cartons of cigarettes with a credit card. They remind people to check their credit statements often for fraud charges.