RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A federal grand jury in North Carolina has returned a sealed, 12-count indictment charging 24 people in a scheme to defraud the federal government and four states of millions of dollars in tax revenues from cigarette sales.
The defendants were arrested on Thursday, said G. Norman Acker III, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, in a news release. The indictments were handed down on Oct. 20, according to the release.
In the first of the 12 counts, Acker says the grand jury alleges that members of the conspiracy repeatedly purchased large quantities of cigarettes from wholesale cigarette outlets in Rocky Mount and Wilson, then shipped them to storage locations for future shipment to Virginia, New Jersey and New York. After buying the cigarettes from wholesalers, the conspirators prepared to ship the cigarettes to the Northeast by using large vehicles and crossing into Virginia.
The defendants are also accused of trying to disguise transactions from the cigarette smuggling and thus further the activity, prosecutors said.
The various charges carry fines of up to $500,000 and maximum prison sentences of 20 years.