Philip Morris USA Sues New York Retailers For Selling Counterfeit Cigarettes

Philip Morris USA (PM USA) filed two lawsuits today in U.S. District Court against 34 New York City retailers for selling counterfeit versions of the company's Marlboro brand cigarettes.

PM USA continues to take action against counterfeit sellers to protect its valuable trademarks, support law enforcement, promote the lawful sale of its brands and safeguard the integrity of the legitimate distribution system. With this new lawsuit, PM USA has sued a total of 212 New York retailers for selling counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes. In February, PM USA also filed a lawsuit against two Chinese websites, Olymall.com and Owncig.com, which sold contraband Marlboro cigarettes store to New York consumers.

In addition to litigation, the company continues to support law enforcement criminal investigations involving contraband trade in buy cigarette online in New York and across the U.S. Most recently, the Queens County District Attorney's office arrested several counterfeit cigarette distributors.

"We applaud law enforcement authorities in New York for working diligently to prosecute cigarette traffickers. Selling counterfeit cigarettes for sale is illegal, and we will continue to work to support law enforcement and take appropriate action ourselves to protect our brands, our consumers and the legitimate channels through which our products are distributed and sold," said Joe Murillo, vice president and associate general counsel, Altria Client Services, speaking on behalf of PM USA.

PM USA estimates that there could be over three million packs of counterfeit Marlboro cheap cigarettes available annually in the New York City area, making it one of the top areas in the U.S. for counterfeit cigarettes. New York City has the highest cigarette tax rate in the country and is very profitable for those involved in the illicit cigarette trade. The state and city tax lost on 3 million counterfeit packs exceeds $17.5 million -- harming retailers, defrauding consumers and depriving tax-paying New Yorkers of much-needed revenue.

Counterfeit cigarettes online are often manufactured in China in unregulated facilities and then smuggled into the U.S. Those who profit from the illegal distribution and sale of counterfeit discount cigarette online are often involved in other organized crimes, such as drug, weapons and human trafficking. These criminals range from small-time smugglers to organized crime and organizations with ties to terrorism. Counterfeit Marlboro discount cigarettes are also sold online through China-based websites.