WRAL Investigates

Nine sentenced in cigarette-smuggling ring

Posted September 10, 2010

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— 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.

Dahir, Brigman and Oxendine and their six co-defendants were arrested in November 2009 and pleaded guilty in April to conspiring to ship, transport, receive, possess, distribute and purchase contraband cigarettes.

As well, Oxendine and Kenny Salcedo, 36, of Bethel, Conn., pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting money structuring, and Ana Rodriguez, 53, of Danbury, Conn., also pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting interstate transportation of stolen goods, money laundering and aiding and abetting the counterfeiting of cigarette tax stamps.

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 and Explosives.

"We owe these people for the long, tireless hours they put in so that we could secure this prosecution," U.S. Attorney George Holding said in a statement.

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.



36 Comments

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  • ncguy Sep 10, 2010

    time to start growing my own.......... tabacco that is...

  • tomfoolery Sep 10, 2010

    Garnerwolf1- Now if I purchase a couple of cartons and take them on vacation "say up north". I'm not breaking a law. But when I sell them, that is a different story.

  • ncguy Sep 10, 2010

    They would have received less for Pot!

  • Garnerwolf1 Sep 10, 2010

    "Every time I go up North, I take a few cartons with me and that pays for my trip... am I a bad person?" Depends on your definition of bad. By law, you are a criminal. Humorous how people that don't agree with certain laws seem to think that means it doesn't apply to them. Some felons probably think that way too. Go ask RJR. Smuggling cigs is a multi-million dollar a year business.

  • miketroll3572 Sep 10, 2010

    Wish I knew where they were selling.

  • alex27856 Sep 10, 2010

    Screw the Gov. If they will quit taxing us to death this would not even be a issue. Pep. would just buy smokes where they lived. If i bought 2 cases of water in nc and took it back to ny should i be brought up on charges? I know not! If it was made in USA it shouldnt matter where you buy it or where you take it as long as it stays in the USA.

  • Mugu Sep 10, 2010

    ATF = Roscoe P. Coltrane

  • timbo 2.0 Sep 10, 2010

    Who cares.

    What a waste of manpower and money.

    And for what? Ooooh, selling untaxed cigarettes. Thanks god our government is protecting us.

  • Pseudonym Sep 10, 2010

    Mugu,

    According to our gubbermint, yes.

    According to us normal people, you're a folk hero along with Junior Johnson and Bo and Luke Duke.

  • Mugu Sep 10, 2010

    Every time I go up North, I take a few cartons with me and that pays for my trip... am I a bad person?

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