More warrants issued after recent Tupelo tobacco search

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Published: June 22,2009

TUPELO — An authorized search warrant was executed last week on Holley Sales Group, a cigarette distributing company located in Anderson, S.C. The search warrant was issued by the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina. The warrant was executed without incident by members of a federal task force and representatives from the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, and the South Carolina Department of Revenue.

This search, together with the May 26 search of Global Distributing, a tobacco distributor in Tupelo, the May 19 search executed on Farmers Tobacco, a cigarette manufacturer located in Cynthiana, Ky., the April 28 search warrant executed on Tantus Tobacco, another cigarette manufacturer located in Russell Springs, Ky. and the discovery of a warehouse containing millions of dollars worth of cigarettes in Mississippi April 14 was conducted in support of an ongoing, two-year investigation into the diversion of tobacco products into and through Mississippi. These searches were conducted by a federal task force working the case in North Mississippi and also South Carolina, Kentucky and other states.

The task force is comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Mississippi Auditor’s Office, the Mississippi Tax Commission, the Tupelo Police Department and the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office. Its focus is to administer and enforce all laws and regulations pertaining to the shipment, sale and distribution of cigarettes. It is supported, to a great extent, by other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in each respective search location.

It is unlawful, under federal law, to conspire to falsify records related to the sale of cigarettes, evade federal cigarette excise taxes, impede a federal agency’s performance or unduly hinder the administration of justice, using the mails, wires or interstate carriers in furtherance of a scheme to defraud.

Frederick T. Brink, special agent in charge of the FBI in Mississippi, said he recognizes the importance of cooperation between law enforcement agencies in investigating the large scale abuse of federal and state laws. Specifically, full-time task force officers have been provided to the task force by the Tupelo Police Department and the Marshall County Sheriff’s office. In addition, sheriff’s offices and police departments at each search location have provided assistance in coordinating and organizing these operations.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering said, “I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this joint task force, along with the FBI, ATF, State Tax Commission, Marshall County sheriff and Tupelo police. As state auditor, my involvement in this case, as well as any other investigation, centers around protecting the taxpayers of Mississippi and to assist in any recovery on behalf of the State.”

This investigation is ongoing and all resources of the federal, state and local agencies involved are being utilized. No arrests have been made as yet; however, a number of subjects have been interviewed.

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