An underground tobacco economy is costing the state and local governments much-needed tax revenue.
Wednesday, at the Badlands Landfill in Moreno Valley, more than $600,000 in tobacco contraband was unloaded from trucks, to be turned into mulch.
It's the product of 143 seizures made throughout Southern California by the state Board of Equalization and various law enforcement agencies.
At a news conference, officials talked about how on an annual basis, illegal tobacco sales cost the state nearly $300 million in excise tax revenue -- money needed for vital services.
"Tobacco tax revenues are dedicated to early childhood programs, early childhood development programs, breast cancer research and detection. Those are quality-of-life issues," said Riverside District Attorney Paul Zellerbach.
The tobacco products destroyed in Moreno Valley represented about $166,000 in lost tax revenue.
Officials said, in many cases, the product gets into U.S. through false shipping manifests.