A former Prince George's County police officer was sentenced Thursday to more than five years behind bars in a scheme to smuggle $1.7 million worth of black market cigarettes.
Chong Chin Kim, 44, a 16-year-veteran on the force, admitted to providing protection as the cigarettes were transported from Virginia into Maryland.
On at least one occasion, Kim worked in his police uniform, armed with his service weapon and drove a marked police cruiser to help load the contraband cigarettes into a safe house.
The smuggling operation cost the public $2.6 million in uncollected cigarette taxes, said prosecutors.
Kim was one of three Prince George's County police officers caught up in the wide-ranging federal corruption probe that resulted in the conviction of former Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson and his wife Leslie, a former councilwoman.
Former police Sgt. Richard Delabrer was sentenced to nearly four years. Former police officer Sinisa Simic, 27, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Contraband cigarettes have become big business for organized crime as taxes on cigarettes in states like New York, New Jersey and Michigan have climbed, federal authorities say.
According to charging documents, between 2009 and 2010, Kim conspired to sell the black market cigarettes to Chun "Eddy" Chen, who owned a Mitchellville carry-out restaurant.
Kim and his conspirators paid an undercover agent more than $1.7 million for more than 17 million cigarettes involving at least 33 illegal transactions.
Kim, of Odenton, and the conspirators traveled to Virginia to pick up a rented truck, which was loaded with the cigarettes, and then drove the loads to a storage unit in Maryland obtained by Kim.
During this time, Maryland imposed a $2 sales tax on each pack of cigarette, while Virginia imposed a 30-cent sales tax on each pack.
Kim and Chen then sold the cigarettes to black market buyers in New York, where local taxes exceeded $8 a pack.
A person who deals in contraband cigarettes earns the dealer about an extra $5 per pack in New York City, authorities said.
Chen, 36, of Bowie, was sentenced to 18 months.