Sentencing in contraband cigarette case postponed

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Published: February 15,2011

Tags: courts, tobacco

OXFORD — A federal sentencing hearing has been rescheduled in the case of a Florida man convicted in Mississippi for his role in a multistate cigarette smuggling operation.

Mitchell Sivina, of Doral, Fla., pleaded guilty in May in U.S. District Court in Oxford to money laundering and transporting stolen cigarettes. Court records show Sivina’s sentencing has been delayed from March until April 4 due to a scheduling conflict.

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 say Sivina was once paid with a box containing $350,000 cash that was tossed over the fence of a northern Mississippi airport. He faces up to 20 years in prison on one count and 10 years on the other.

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.

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.

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