PM USA Sues N.Y. Retailers Over Counterfeit Sales

Has sued 212 New York retailers for selling fake Marlboro cigarettes

RICHMOND, Va. -- Philip Morris USA has filed two lawsuits in U.S. District Court against 34 New York City retailers for selling counterfeit versions of the company's Marlboro brand cigarettes. 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, and, which sold contraband Marlboro cigarettes to New York consumers.

PM USA continues to take action against counterfeit sellers to protect its trademarks, support law enforcement, promote [image-nocss] the lawful sale of its brands and safeguard the integrity of the legitimate distribution system. In addition to litigation, the company continues to support law enforcement criminal investigations involving contraband trade in cigarettes in New York and across the United States.

Most recently, the Queens County District Attorney's office arrested several counterfeit cigarette distributors (click here for details).

"We applaud law enforcement authorities in New York for working diligently to prosecute cigarette traffickers. Selling counterfeit cigarettes 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 for Altria Client Services, speaking on behalf of PM USA.

PM USA estimates that there could be more than three million packs of counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes available annually in the New York City area, making it one of the top areas in the nation 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 three million counterfeit packs exceeds $17.5 million--harming retailers, defrauding consumers and depriving tax-paying New Yorkers of much-needed revenue, the company said.

Counterfeit cigarettes are often manufactured in China in unregulated facilities and then smuggled into the United States. Those who profit from the illegal distribution and sale of counterfeit cigarettes 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 cigarettes are also sold online through China-based websites.

Richmond, Va.-based Philip Morris USA is an operating company of Altria Group.