GREENVILLE, NC (NEWS RELEASE) - United States Attorney George E.B. Holding announced that in federal court on September 8, 2010, Chief United States District Judge Louise W. Flanagan sentenced nine defendants who conspired to sell large quantities of contraband cigarettes with a total retail value of approximately $4.2 million.
The defendants and their sentences include:
GHASSAN DAHIR, 51, of Raleigh, North Carolina, 20 months’
imprisonment and $500,000 restitution;
ANA RODRIGUEZ, 53, of Danbury, Connecticut, 78 months’
imprisonment and $5,159,337,10 in restitution;
ALPHONSO RODRIGUEZ, 51, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 8
months’ imprisonment and $20,000 in restitution;
CARLOS RODRIGUEZ, 25, of Danbury, Connecticut, 6 months’
imprisonment and $20,000 in restitution;
HEIDI RODRIGUEZ, 29, of Bethel, Connecticut, 3 years’
probation and $20,000 in restitution;
KENNY SALCEDO, 36, of Bethel, Connecticut, 30 months’
imprisonment and $60,000 in restitution;
WILLARD PEREZ, 27, of Bethel, Connecticut, 16 months’
imprisonment and $20,000 in restitution;
DARRELL BRIGMAN, 64, of Kannapolis, North Carolina, 3 years’
probation and $250,000 in restitution; and
NICHOLAS OXENDINE, 32, of Rowland, North Carolina, 16 months’
imprisonment and $250,000 in restitution.
A Federal Grand Jury returned a Criminal Indictment on November 12, 2009. On April 14, 16, and 19, 2010, the defendants pled guilty to conspiring to ship, transport, receive, possess, sell, distribute and purchase contraband cigarettes. Additionally, OXENDINE pled guilty to aiding and abetting money structuring, SALCEDO to aiding and abetting money laundering, and ANA RODRIGUEZ to aiding and abetting interstate transportation of stolen goods, money laundering, and aiding and abetting the counterfeiting of cigarette tax stamps.
Mr. Holding commented, “I would like to thank all the agents who worked so diligently on this case to bring each of the defendants to justice. We owe these people for the long, tireless hours they put in so that we could secure this prosecution.” As described in the Indictment, the conspiracy was carried out by ANA RODRIGUEZ, ALPHONSO RODRIGUEZ, CARLOS RODRIGUEZ, HEIDI RODRIGUEZ, KENNY SALCEDO and WILLARD PEREZ, "the buyers", who repeatedly traveled, normally in one or more full-sized vans with either New York, Connecticut, or Pennsylvania license plates, from the Northeastern United States to North Carolina for the purpose of purchasing large quantities of cigarettes outside the normal flow of commerce. The buyers would arrive at a pre-determined time and place, carrying large quantities of cash to complete the purchase. DAHIR, BRIGMAN, and OXENDINE, "the suppliers" would supply the cigarettes, and accept payment in cash. The buyers would then promptly return to the northeastern part of the United States to distribute the cigarettes.
To facilitate the distribution of such large quantities of cigarettes outside the reach of the lawful taxation authority of the northeastern states, the buyers dealt with and sometimes sold counterfeit tax stamps. At one point in the conspiracy, the buyers began bringing counterfeit tax stamps to North Carolina for the purpose of selling them or bartering them for additional cigarettes.
The buyers repeatedly re-invested their profits from the scheme in the purchase of additional cigarettes, which was always done in cash. Shortly after selling the cigarettes to the buyers, OXENDINE carefully structured the deposits of cash he received from the buyers into his bank account in amounts less than $10,000 in an effort to avoid triggering the bank's obligation to file Currency Transaction Reports (CTRs). On occasion he would make single deposits in amounts close to the $10,000 limit and on others he would make multiple deposits on the same or successive days which totaled somewhat less than $10,000. When OXENDINE was warned by a bank official that his account appeared to evidence a pattern of deliberate structuring to avoid the filing of CTRs, his response, after acknowledging that he was aware of the structuring regulations, was to open a new account in which to deposit profits from the scheme.
“Those who traffic in contraband cigarettes pose a danger to our financial infrastructure,” said IRS-CI Supervisory Special Agent Jeannine A. Hammett. “IRS-Criminal Investigation will continue to focus our resources and work vigorously to stop this type of fraud.”
Investigation of this case was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation Division and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Assistant United States Attorney John S. Bowler represented the government.