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Friday, June 26, 2009

OK, Here Is The Whole Story

Wow, first I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has emailed me and shared this story on their blog, I am overwhelmed by the amount of support I have received from my internet family, I am truly touched.

I can't believe how this has really taken on a life of its own, I realize that my first message about this government trouble was vague, that's mainly because I was shocked, a little frightened, and at a loss to know exactly how to react.

I sincerely apologize if my first message caused undue excitement with anyone, that was certainly not my intent, I just wanted to make sure that something got out about this, just in case...

Now that a day has gone by, and I can look at this with fresh eyes, my perspective has changed a bit on this matter. that along with all the support I have received here and elsewhere has made me feel a lot better. I wanted to wait until I found out a little more information about this issue before posting the full story here, but this has caused such a brouhaha all over the net, I wanted to go ahead and fill everyone in on what is going on.

First, I don't really think my blog is in danger of being shut down, at least I hope not, I just wanted to make sure at least part of this story got out there just in case the feds decided to pull the plug on my site (oops, what site???), I doubt that would really happen, but I didn't think I would be receiving that letter in the mail either, that along with the fact that the agency responsible for sending that letter HAS visited my blog on several occasions, I assume that it is probably related.

OK, now to the issue. Here is the deal, I have been buying cigarettes from Europe (European made for Europeans), I have been doing this for a year and a half. I typically order between X and X cartons at a time, the time before last, I ordered X (more than usual) cartons, mainly because it is getting more and more difficult to pay for these, the overseas companies have a hard time keeping credit card vendors and other payment methods for any length of time, I didn't understand until now what that is. Our wonderful government has requested that the merchant account (credit card payment places) not do business with these overseas cigarette sellers, so each time I have ordered cigarettes, I have had to pay with a different method, I have paid with my bank card, PayPal, AlertPay, bank transfers, each time I got my cigarettes with no problems.

EDIT
I chose to remove the exact number of cartons I order, I don't want to give "them" any more ammo to use against me than I have to.

So this time I had decided to order more cigarettes than usual to make sure I would still have plenty of cigarettes and not run out before my next order, in case the next order took longer than usual to come in, it could take anywhere from 2 weeks to a month to come in. Anyhoo, I ordered X cartons, I suspect that is when I was flagged by the gov, or it could have been when I was blogging about how to order cigarettes from overseas, maybe that is what drew the attention of homeland security and the border patrol. I am in no way selling, trading or bartering with these cigarettes, they are strictly for personal use. The latest order of cigarettes never arrived, but this letter did.

I received a letter from the border patrol/dept of homeland security stating that my cigarettes had been intercepted, Here is what the letter said, I highlighted key phrases that I find interesting:

U.S Customs and Border Protection

Informed Compliance Notice for Cigarettes Imported Through the Mail
6-18-2009

Dear Madan/Sir:

This is to notify you that the U.S.Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had interdicted a U.S. Mail package addressed to you that contains cigarettes. Please be advised that the Imported Cigarette Compliance Act of 2000 (Act), which was codified under Title 19, United States Code, Section 1681, et seq. (10 USC1681, et seq.), imposed strict requirements for the lawful importation of cigarettes. This shipment does not compl with these requirements. The cigarettes are desctibed as follows

Reference# CIG-4701-86046 Description: Cigarettes 1 Box(s)

Cigarettes imported in violation of this Act are subject to seizure and forfeiture under the provisions of Title 19, United States Code, Section 1681a. However CBP has decided to allow you the option of voluntarily abandoning the property to the Government after which it will be destroyed in accordance with Title 41, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Section 102-3 (41CFR 102-36). You can elect to do nothing in response to this notice. If you elect to do nothing, the cigarettes will be considered abandoned after 30 days and destroyed. Finally, you may elect to request that CBP commence seizure and forfeiture proceedings to allow you the opportunity to engage in a formal legal process to petition for the return of the property. Please be advised that no relief from seizure is vailable unless you prove the cigarettes were not imported in violation of the Imported Cigarette Compliance Act of 2000 and all other applicle laws.

Enclosed is an election of proceedings document. Please indicate your election, sign, date, and return the document to the address indicated on the document. Please note that future attempts to import cigarettes in violation of the Imported Cigarette Compliance Act of 2000 may result in personal penalties or criminal prosecution.

Please be aware that numerous Internet web sites are dispensing inaccurate information regarding the legality of cigarette shimpents into the United States. For further information, visit our website at http://cbp.gov and do a search for "Importation of Cigarettes" to read CBO's public directive regarding this subject.


***************
end of letter

I tried going to their website and did the search they suggested, and NOTHING relevant comes up. When I look this up on the internet, I get conflicting information from the official gov sites. I don't know whether or not I should send in the form to contest this, they don't say what it is I have to do to prove that I'm not in violation, I can't even find that the stated violations are! What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

So far, what I have found indicates that it is legal to import cigarettes that are made in other countries (not made in the USA for import outside the USA, that has a whole different set of rules), I can import cigarettes for my own personal use, not for sale or resale which I am not doing, these are for personal use, but how do I prove that??? I can find lots of info relating to American citizens traveling outside the country and bringing back cigarettes purchased from duty free shops, but that is not what I am doing, there is a different set of rules/laws governing importing cigarettes for personal use, I just can't make heads or tails out of it.

I believe this is ultimately about money, taxes to be precise, every carton of cigarettes I purchase from another country is money that doesn't go into the government coffers, and that is something that upsets the powers that be.

This IS the same agency that has visited my blog, I have posted 2 messages about tobacco, the first was telling people how to buy cigarettes from Europe and save money, the other was about growing your own tobacco plants. I suspect that those two articles raised some flags with the powers that be, not only am I getting the benefits of not paying high prices and taxes for cigarettes, I am teaching other people how to do it. It is still possible that the visits from this government agency and the letter I received from the same agency are not related in any way, but I doubt that now.

I realize that not everyone is going to be sympathetic about the fact that this is about cigarettes, and I can appreciate that point of view, I do not smoke, this is for Mountain Man Bob, I wish he would quit, but as long as he chooses to do this, it's one of his very few vices, I will do everything I can to find the cheapest, legal way to buy these, and for now at least, buying them from Europe is the cheapest route, they cost about half what you would pay in the states. Before you make a judgment about what the item is about, remember that if the powers that be can stop me by using bullying scare techniques from LEGALLY purchasing a legal product for personal use, then eventually they can and will go after something you do care about, whether it be vitamins, herbs, alternative medicine, your choice of which doctor you want to go to, heirloom seeds, growing your own food (plants or animals), I could go on and on. This is about our individual freedoms that are being whittled away piece by piece under the guise of "we are doing this for your own good".

Oh, and one more thing, I am not trying to solicit money for this, now if you like my blog, feel free to donate or check out some of my sponsors, but that is not the purpose or motive of this post. I know that I mentioned in the first message that I don't have the money for a legal council, I assure you that was not a plea for funds, I doubt I would get enough to even begin to cover the costs of getting a lawyer and pursuing this. I would however, accept free legal advice or legal assistance on this matter.

Please feel free to spread this news around, the more people who are aware of what is going on, the better.

By the way, the cigarette company I am dealing with in all of this is treating me very well, they have gone above and beyond the call of duty on this issue and another issue I had on a previous order, if you are interested in knowing who this company is, email me and ask, and I'll give you the URL.


Wretha

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18 comments:

  1. Well, you committed the WORST sin against nanny.gov you possibly could have! You DARED to avoid oppressive taxation!!! On top of that, you had the GALL to circumvent nanny's tobacco laws, which are there for your "protection". I'm amazed the BATF didn't show up at your door in an armored vehicle...... I think any attempt to fight this will prove futile at best. Chalk it up as a loss and move on. This ain't worth fighting over in and of it's self. You already know you'll lose, as the burden of proof is on you. "Guilty until proven innocent".....

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  2. Hi Wretha, sorry you are going through all this trouble. This is a fairly common form letter from DHS/CBP on people importing certain items into the US that may or may not be legal. I had the exact same letter sent to me when I tried to purchase a switchblade from Italy.
    Just throw it away and try to find another way to buy smokes! It is most likely the amount, though I have heard some stories of the electronic cigarettes from China being confiscated as well.
    Good luck!
    Jason in Vermont

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  3. That sucks, Wretha, sorry to read about your troubles with the feds. I don't like the weed, but what people do in their own home without harming anyone else, is up to them. If the gov. thought tobacco was so evil, then they should ban it outright, but they don't, they want to profit from people's addiction. Who has the moral high ground, I ask?

    You are right, this is about freedom, which is steadily eroded in favor of big biz and power hungry leeches. I can't offer advice, but moral support. Hope it all works out OK for you.

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  4. Stop by my blog when you have a chance. I've given you something.

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  5. lol...my hu got one of those letters once when he bought a video. It IS scary. Indian Reservations still sell smokes, but UPS won't deliver them and I think you have to pay through paypal. The government wants it's money! lol
    Grow your own, get a rolling machine and by loose tobacco, whatever. I understand what you were doing, but it's best to just grow it yourself!

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  6. So what makes you think this has anything to do with your blog? Seems like you aren't really supposed to be importing cigarettes (I know these things are in a grey area) and you were. Thus you got a letter saying in .gov speak to knock it off. What makes you think customs is reading your site and somehow 'targeted' you? Maybe it is just that I am not wearing a tin foil hat today (forgot it at work) but these two things seem entirely unrelated.

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  7. "Please be advised that no relief from seizure is vailable unless you prove the cigarettes were not imported in violation of the Imported Cigarette Compliance Act of 2000 and all other applicle laws."

    Nothing like being guilty until proven innocent.

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  8. While I don't condone smoking (I have 3 children & 3 siblings who do) it is a personal freedom to do so.
    I'm wondering how we, as Americans, will be able to buy ANYTHING from foreign retailers (or private entities) if the Gov't is going to put such ridiculous regulations (that are seemingly contradictory) on those who wish to purchase from them.
    I have no legal advice...but wish you luck in sorting this out. Ever feel like ceceding from the Union? (that oughta raise some eyebrows!)

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  9. Move along folks. Nothing to look at here.

    For some reason, I'm picturing somebody yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theatre. Hell, ya got Mayberry calling for action and writing letters to the MSM!

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  10. Wretha,

    It's not a good idea to admit to anything in your posting that can be twisted and used against you. You may want to challenge the ruling just to f*ck with them! I'm not sure how but you could demand copies of all the evidence they have and strongly dispute their charges/claims. Don't expect to ever get your property...They have already smoked em!

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  11. Damn dot gov types dont know when to leave the sleeping dog lie. Just have to get all righteous and kick the friggen dog eh. Messing with folks nicotine habits is a sure way to start a real mess.
    And I must add Hill folks like me know how to mend revenoors....Sign me off on this one as Tom the Tinker...

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  12. I used to do the same thing Wretha.
    I stopped about a year or so ago because I got the same letter.
    I had to than resort to buying locally. Grrrrrr.
    Now I guess its quitting time.
    BTW, nothing ever happened after I received the letter.
    Good Luck

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  13. You are quite the rule breaker, aren’t you? Haha. I love it. I have been reading your blog since before you moved to your little slice of paradise. I sent you a Harbor Freight coupon a couple of years ago that doesn’t expire for 20% off any one item. You can make several copies of it too, have been using it for some time now.

    We are headed for a police state. Don’t expect your enemy to give you pats on the back. Keep in mind what you are doing. You have essentially signed your name to a new version of a Declaration of Independence. Look what your promote, Pokerface, Patriot sites, and a Patriot way of thinking. You are living the life of a Free Person and a Patriot. This flies in the face of the Police State.

    A Free person does things that a scared subject of a Totalitarian government will not do, like speak out. Cower down and we will become much like Soviet Russia with the KGB causing most citizens to go along to get along. I for one am a free and sovereign American. I refuse to live a life of quiet desperation. I hope and pray that you will Not go quietly. All this while keeping in mind what happened to most signers of the first Declaration of Independence. Do some research on that one.

    You might check out http://www.theintelligencereport.tk/ and go to the archives for liberty tree radio. It is Mark Koernke’s show and is patriot radio. The revolution is on, I just hope it is not an armed one. Prepare either way, you never know what you may need in this life.

    I pray you share everything, (Well not your exact address, but you get the idea) because if we allow the Police State to bully us, we are in deeper trouble than ever. Speak out and don’t allow KGB tactics in America.

    I have since moved to 3.7 acres in rural Missouri and love it. We do have mains power, rural water, and a propane tank, so it isn’t exactly roughing it. I suggest we get as many out of the cities as possible.

    Skip in Rural Missouri

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  14. Wretha-

    I've never been a tobacco user but as I read your post, I wondered if you've considered these alternatives.

    1. Non-tobacco herbal cigarettes - Non-tobacco herbal cigarettes

    2. If you know someone who grows tobacco, you may be able to buy freshly harvested plants before they are dried or some dried leaves or better yet, barter for the freshly harvested plants or dried leaves.

    As I understand it, Federal law requires a buyer to have a tobacco license before purchasing tobacco leaves from a commercial grower.

    3. You probably hit on the best plan with your post about growing your own.

    4. This Link offers tobacco for import from Vietnam. Imported tobacco

    5. Additional info sources

    Grow your own tobacco

    More about grow your own tobacco

    Sources of organic tobacco leaves I don't know if you need a tobacco license to purchase here.

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  15. Wretha,
    Good news is, you can grow your own or maybe even quit the smoking habit. This sort of taxation and rules are mainly in place take monies from the citizens. Get used to it for Obama has more to come. Cap and trade. We are going to be heavily taxed on the electricity we all use in the name of green energy. This is being done to pay for the Federal Governments new spending habits. Health care, etc.
    Nathan

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  16. Those who are off-grid, using solar power, wind power and hydro-power, will be better off because their monthly electric bill will not go up.

    If they are hunting or raising their own meat and growing a big garden, they will only be affected when they purchase something they cannot make or grow.

    Energy self-reliance and as close to food self-reliance as possible is the way to go.

    Rick

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  17. I just got the same freaking letter from US customs for importing 2 cartons, You ever get yours?
    Ohwell I kind of doubt I will get mine, Good thing is the company I ordered from will refund me.

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  18. I agree with Mayberry; it's incredible BATF didn't break down your door. They must be preparing their FEMA camps and will deal with you later.

    Maybe you could run down to the Mexican border and pick up some duty free cigarettes there. Heh, if you do that they'll probably pick you up and charge your with crashing the border. The prisons are full of Patriots that have done no wrong.

    Watch your back!

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