N.Y. man indicted for smuggling cigarettes

Juan Encarnacion

A Shenandoah County grand jury has handed up a 20-count indictment against a New York City man on charges related to the smuggling of untaxed cigarettes out of Virginia.

The defendant, Juan Pablo Encarnacion, 46, is the latest addition to a list of defendants arrested and charged as a result of a massive undercover investigation by the Sheriff’s Office into cigarette trafficking.

The first jury trial involving charges of cigarette trafficking is scheduled in about six weeks. Information made public during lengthy pre-trial maneuvering has revealed that the investigation involves the sales of millions of dollars of untaxed cigarettes by the Sheriff’s Office to buyers from the New York area. The defendants are accused of taking the cigarettes out of state illegally and reselling them at huge profits.

The transactions in some cases have led to the Sheriff’s Office collecting millions of dollars from the federal government’s asset forfeiture program, which distributes money to state and local law enforcement agencies. The state and local agencies qualify for the money by conducting investigations that lead to the seizure of cash and property tied to criminal activities. The agencies turn the seized assets over to the federal government, which sells them off and returns part of the money to sheriff’s offices and police departments.

Sheriff Timothy C. Carter has staunchly defended the program against critics, some of them in local law enforcement, who have argued that the Sheriff’s Office’s sprawling undercover investigation is excessive and appears to be a money making venture as much as a law enforcement effort.

Maj. Scott Proctor of the Sheriff’s Office said Encarnacion was indicted last week and arrested by law enforcement officials in New York. He was extradited to Virginia and is being held without bail in the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail.

“This stems from the ongoing investigation into illegal sale and possession of contraband, in this case, cigarettes,” Proctor said of Encarnacion’s case. “The incident occurred in the county over a period from December 2012 through August 2013.”

Few other details were available about the case. A criminal complaint filed in general district court on separate but related charges states that on “Dec. 6, 2012, Encarnacion, with the assistance of other individuals, purchased and transported more than 500 packages of untaxed cigarettes for the purpose of evading taxes. On June 3, 2015, Encarnacion was identified by investigators.”

Encarnacion is scheduled to appear at 9 a.m. Friday in Shenandoah County General District Court.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com