UPDATE: State preparing to auction contraband smokes

By The Associated Press

JACKSON — Mississippi is planning to auction about 855,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes as early as September.

A new law allows the auditor’s office and State Tax Commission to speed up sales and open the auction to out-of-state vendors.

In April, a task force discovered thousands of cases of cigarettes in a warehouse in Mississippi. In May, the task force searched a distributing company in Tupelo.

The FBI said the raids are part of an ongoing investigation into a tobacco black market with ties to Mississippi, Kentucky and South Carolina.

The estimated value of the seized cigarettes is $20 million. State officials say their sale could yield more than $5 million in unpaid state taxes.