North Carolina man sentenced in tobacco smuggling scheme

North Carolina

Tobacco plants (CBS17.com photo)

WILSON, N.C. (WNCN/AP) — A North Carolina farmer has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison in connection with a smuggling operation that drove tobacco into Canada.

The U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release that 55-year-old Phil Caprice Howard was sentenced for conspiring to commit money laundering and filing a false tax return.

The news release says documents and information presented in court indicate Howard arranged on more than 220 occasions to transport tobacco from Wilson to the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation Reservation near the U.S.-Canada border.

Once it was taken into Canada, the “cut rag” tobacco was “manufactured into contraband cigarettes,” officials said in the news release. Cut rag tobacco is tobacco that has been cut into fine strips for use in cigarettes.

Howard, of Pink Hill, was paid in cash and cigarettes that were driven back to North Carolina, as well as in the form of wire payments, according to officials.

In all, Howard obtained more than $2 million in criminal proceeds, which he laundered through a series of financial transactions, officials said.

The operation cost Canada more than $600 million in taxes. Howard was sentenced on Thursday.

He must also pay $1,062,192 in restitution to the United States government. Howard was also ordered to forfeit $2,232,814 as “proceeds of his money laundering activity,” the news release said.

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