North Carolina - nine sentenced in cigarette-smuggling ring..

September 10, 2010 - You can't have a truly effective tobacco control program until you can control the flow of illegal (illicit, smuggled, contraband, black market) tobacco products such as cigarettes.

Nine people have been sentenced on federal charges that they smuggled cigarettes from North Carolina throughout the northeast U.S. in effort to evade state taxes.

Prosecutors said that three suppliers – Ghassan Dahir, 51, of Raleigh, Darrel Brigman, 64, of Kannapolis, and Nicholas Oxendine, 32, of Rowland – sold cigarettes with total retail value of $4.2 million over six years. They also created counterfeit tax stamps that other states require as proof that taxes have been paid, prosecutors said.

The six buyers, identified as two women and four men from Connecticut and Pennsylvania, transported the cigarettes in large vans throughout the northeast and sold them without paying taxes. Prosecutors said that Oxendine deposited profits from the scheme in different accounts in amounts just under $10,000 in an effort to avoid triggering a review of the transactions.

"Those who traffic in contraband cigarettes pose a danger to our financial infrastructure," Jeannine A. Hammet, a criminal investigations agent with the Internal Revenue Service, said in a statement.

Chief U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan on Wednesday handed down the following sentences:
* Dahir: 20 months in prison, $500,000 in restitution
* Brigman: three years on probation, $250,000 in restitution
* Oxendine: 16 months in prison, $250,000 in restitution
* Ana Rodriguez: six-and-a-half years in prison, nearly $5.2 million in restitution
* Salcedo: two-and-a-half years in prison, $60,000 in restitution
* Alphonso Rodriguez, 24, of Danbury, Conn.: six months in prison, $20,000 in restitution
* Carlos Rodriguez, 25, of Danbury, Conn.: six months in prison, $20,000 in restitution
* Heidi Rodriguez, 29, of Bethel, Conn.: three years on probation, $20,000 in restitution
* Willard Perez, 27, of Bethel, Conn.: 16 months in prison, $20,000 in restitution

The case was investigated by the IRS and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF) and Explosives.

The ATF has investigated several high-profile cigarette smuggling cases in North Carolina in the past few years. The state General Assembly has considered legislation requiring tax stamps in effort to snuff out cigarette smuggling. (North Carolina - may restore tax stamp to reduce smuggling..)

Directly related: U.S. - East Coast Cigarette Smuggling - on going..

Reference: Nine sentenced in cigarette-smuggling ring, Web Editor: Anne Johnson,, 9/10/2010.

A few related news briefs:
U.S. - East Coast Cigarette Smuggling - on going..;
South Carolina - low cigarette pricing, smuggling, higher insurance premiums, etc..;
Rhode Island - c-store, another case of selling cigarettes that lack state tax stamp..;
Rhode Island retailers finding ways to avoid paying tobacco tax...