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Orlando man arrested on charges of importing non-taxed tobacco products

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ORLANDO, Fla. - An Orlando man's business was raided after state agents say he was illegally importing thousands of cartons of cigarettes and tobacco products.

Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation said that agents seized more than 325,000 packs of untaxed cigarettes and more than 500,000 pouches of loose tobacco when they arrested Sameer Motlani, 65, Friday.

Investigators' reports said that Motlani was shipping the imported tobacco products to vendors all over the country, including Florida, and Canada.

Investigators with the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco said Motlani is charged with not paying taxes on hundreds of cartons of cigarettes and tobacco products he secretly had sent from India.

On Friday evening, a person at Motlani's business told WFTV's Renee Stoll that Motlani wasn't in and that nothing illegal took place at the business.

Investigative documents said Motlani kept hundreds of packs of cigarettes in a storage trailer behind his business.

According to investigators, some of the cigarettes were illegal in the United States, and they said Motlani told an employee that some were counterfeit.

At Motlani's business, a man said that there were no counterfeit cigarettes.

Investigators said Motlani had the tobacco shipped to a post-office box twice a week, for as long as four years.

According to investigative reports, Motlani then sold and shipped the tobacco products to other vendors and kept the profit.

"That's a lot of money. Like thousands over years?" Stoll asked one tobacco vendor.

"Of course; more, a hundred thousand dollars maybe, a couple hundred thousand," said K.M. Islam.

Owners of one tobacco store that Stoll visited Friday night said they haven't heard of some of the products Motlani got from India.

They said counterfeit cigarettes could have cheap, unrefined tobacco, if it's even tobacco at all.

"People don't know what they're smoking?" Stoll asked Islam.

"Of course, of course, there is no quality control," said Islam.

Investigators said Motlani also has a warrant out of Canada, where he is accused of doing something similar.

In their report, investigators said Motlani is an extreme flight risk because he fled capture before.

Despite investigators' concerns, a judge gave Motlani a $10,000 bond. Motlani paid the bond and is out of jail.