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Tennessee man sentenced for avoiding tobacco tax out of Tupelo business

TUPELO — A Tennessee man has been sentenced for his role in routing tobacco through Mississippi to avoid taxes.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports  that Randy Benham of Cordova, Tenn., was sentenced Monday to 12 months plus one day by U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson.

He was placed on three years’ supervised release after his prison sentence is complete. Benham also was ordered to pay $25,000 restitution to the state of South Carolina, where the tobacco taxes were owed.

Benham, 46, pleaded guilty in 2009 to counts of fraud, false statements and money laundering.

Prosecutors say Benham, along with Jerry G. Burke of Tupelo, Miss., helped run a scheme to dodge state and federal taxes. Others involved included a New York tobacco importer and a South Carolina warehouse owner.

By diverting cigarettes illegally through their Tupelo business, those involved underpaid taxes of $5.4 million to the state of New York and others, and $800,000 to South Carolina.

In 2010, Burke was sentenced to 34 months and ordered to forfeit nearly $2 million, a vehicle and an airplane.

Burke, 70, entered prison in 2011 and is due to be released in about a year.

The pair operated out of Globe Wholesale in downtown Tupelo. Their facilities were raided in early 2009.

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