Last of cigarette trafficking conspirators sentenced
By Joe Beck
The last of 10 defendants in an illegal cigarette trafficking scheme that stretched around the world from the Northern Shenandoah Valley and involved more than $20 million was sentenced to seven years in prison this week in U.S. District Court.
A sentencing memorandum by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeb Terrien described the defendant, Anjay Patel, as "the leader and driving force behind a long term, financially lucrative, international criminal enterprise" that ran from 2009 until Nov. 2011.
Terrien said a law enforcement investigation known as "Valley Tobacco" uncovered other offenses in addition to the illegal buying and selling of hundreds of thousands of cartons of cigarettes. The other crimes included money laundering, tax fraud, identity fraud and drug smuggling, according to the sentencing memorandum.
Other online court documents trace the conspiracy to a warehouse in Edinburg off of Interstate 81 and other warehouses in Chantilly and Bristol. Local and federal law enforcement officials working undercover founded and operated the warehouses in Edinburg and Chantilly, according to court records. A cigarette wholesaler cooperating with law enforcement as a confidential informant ran the warehouse in Bristol.
"During the course of the conspiracy, the conspirators paid more than $20 million for approximately 925,329 cartons of cigarettes" bought from Valley Tobacco law enforcement agents, Terrien wrote in his sentencing memorandum.
The cigarettes were then sold at considerable profit in higher cigarette tax states such as New York and South Carolina. Terrien wrote that the excise tax on cigarettes is $3 per carton in Virginia compared to $43.50 in New York and $5.70 in South Carolina.
Patel also transferred money to a money launderer in London and traveled to China to buy counterfeit cigarettes as part of the conspiracy, according to Terrien.
U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski also imposed a five-year sentence on Patel to be served concurrently with the seven-year sentence. Urbanski also ordered Patel and his co-defendants to pay $2.6 million in restitution to the state of South Carolina.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org