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Man sentenced for role in contraband cigarette operation

OXFORD — A Florida man convicted in Mississippi for his role in a multistate cigarette smuggling operation has been sentenced to 31 months in federal prison.

Mitchell Sivina, of Doral, Fla., pleaded guilty a year ago to money laundering and transporting stolen cigarettes. He was sentenced this week in U.S. District Court in Oxford.

Federal prosecutors had told the court that Sivina’s assistance helped them make cases against numerous others involved in the tobacco scheme.

Prosecutors said Sivina acted as a broker between people who stole about $2 million worth of cigarettes from a Walton, Ky., parking lot in 2006 and wholesalers who bought them in Mississippi and Kentucky.

Prosecutors said Sivina was once paid with a box containing $350,000 cash that was tossed over the fence of a northern Mississippi airport.

Prosecutors said cigarettes were stolen from manufacturer Philip Morris in a series of warehouse burglaries and truck hijackings from 2004 to 2006, including the theft of the $2 million of cigarettes on Oct. 16, 2006, from the truck stop parking lot in Kentucky.

Prosecutors said that days after the cigarettes were stolen, Jerry Burke, a wholesaler in Tupelo, tried to buy the cigarettes from Sivina for about $850,000, with $205,000 coming from Charles Wells, a tobacco wholesaler in Hopkinsville, Ky.

Prosecutors said the cigarettes were taken from Kentucky to the Miami area, then were driven from Florida to Peppertown, which is near Tupelo.

Prosecutors said the stolen cigarettes awaited transfer to Indiana and Kentucky, and federal authorities intercepted the ones destined for Indiana.

Source: AP

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