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Man pleads guilty to charges of cigarette smuggling

OXFORD — An Arkansas man has pleaded guilty in Mississippi to charges related to his role in a multi-state cigarette smuggling operation.

James B. Trosper of Rogers Ark., pleaded guilty this past week in federal court in Oxford to three counts involving a scheme to defraud the U.S. and several states of more than $1 million in tobacco taxes and other fees.

No sentencing date has been set.

Trosper faces up to 43 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

The Northeast Mississippi Daly Journal reports Trosper was named in a criminal information, which is a criminal charge that doesn’t come from a grand jury.

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 Oct. 16, 2006, from the truck stop parking lot in Kentucky.

In court documents, prosecutors said Trosper owned and operated Delta-Ozark Enterprises, a cigarette warehouse and distribution center in Grove, Okla., and did business with Randy Benham, in similar business in Tupelo and Memphis, Tenn. Benham pleaded guilty to the scheme in November 2009 and has yet to be sentenced.

Prosecutors said Trosper and Benham, owner of Globe Distributing in Tupelo, created false documents to make it appear tobacco products were being sold in Mississippi when they actually were being sold elsewhere.

Federal agents raided a Tupelo warehouse owned by Benham in May 2009. They seized thousands of cartons of cigarettes on which no state or federal taxes had been paid.

Several others have been convicted in the scheme.

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