Chinese beer seized in Harford warehouse

Comptroller confiscates drinks valued at $40,000

March 20, 2004|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Agents from the state comptroller's office raided a Harford County warehouse yesterday to seize an exotic brew - and came back with more than they expected.

They confiscated more than a truckload of Chinese beer - 1,600 cases in all.

"We have done a lot of after-hours clubs and things," Larry Tolliver, director of the office's regulatory and enforcement division, said yesterday. "But nothing like this."

Comptroller William Donald Schaefer described the seizure as the latest in a string of successes for Tolliver and his team.

"He's got more cigarettes, more untaxed liquor," Schaefer said. "He just hit a big one today." The beer, under the Yanjing brand name, has an estimated value of $40,000, said Michael Golden, a spokesman for the office. Tolliver said officials aren't sure where the beer came from.

"We have to backtrack and see who did what, where it came from and how they got it," he said. "It's strange, because what I found unusual was, in talking to the wholesalers, nobody uses that brand."

Tolliver said agents received a tip about the illegal sale of beer a couple of weeks ago. "We went in and made two separate buys just to be sure we had everything covered."

Four agents raided a warehouse at White Marsh Freight Transport Inc., a full-service trucking company in the 12000 block of Pulaski Highway in Joppa, about 9:30 a.m. yesterday, the comptroller's office said.

Tolliver said officials knew there would be a lot of beer in the warehouse but "didn't know quite how much until we got there."

Enough beer was seized to fill a tractor-trailer and two box vans, Tolliver said.

Buddy McGowan, 46, owner of White Marsh Freight said he took the beer to Annapolis.

"I tell you what, when I got there and seen all the big boys, the brass, big Schaefer himself, I knew this wasn't going to be good," McGowan said.

The beer was transported to the basement of the comptroller's office in Annapolis, where it filled one room and parts of several others.

Officials expect to arrest at least two people in connection with the seizure, Tolliver said. No arrests had been made last night.

McGowan said he has been storing the beer in his warehouse for a friend since May. "He's been coming in and getting some of it here and there, and I've been after him for months to come get it [all]," McGowan said.

Selling beer without a license is a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and a two-year sentence, Golden said.

But Tolliver said the suspects could face more serious charges of selling or possessing untaxed alcohol in the state of Maryland, which carries a fine of up to $10,000 and 10 years in prison.

In Maryland, the tax on beer is 9 cents per gallon.

Sun staff writer Jason Song and researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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