FDLE: Cigarette theft ring spanned 15 counties

- Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister and state law enforcement officials announced more than a dozen arrests in a stolen-cigarette sting dubbed “Operation Up in Smoke.”

The sheriff’s office showed video of the arrests of store clerks and store owners.  The Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent in Charge in Tampa, Mark Brutnell, says two men are charged with racketeering: Christopher Booker and Quinton Moore.

Brutnell says they traveled to different parts of Florida to steal large quantities of cigarettes from large retailers in both burglaries and robberies.

“Operation Up in Smoke stretched far and wide,” said Brutnell at a Monday news conference. “It stretched into 15 different counties, 10 different judicial circuits.”

Authorities say the clerks and owners arrested for buying the stolen cigarettes face lesser charges, but Chronister warned against resuming on the black market. 

“I hope it sends a strong message. It’s zero tolerance,” said Chronister.

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