Dominican cigars spark Miami US$21M tax fraud scheme

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Miami (Efe).- An executive of a California tobacco company admitted his participation in fraud to evade paying millions of dollars in excise duties on imported tobacco products, in this case from the Dominican Republic.

According to filings Akrum Alrahib, 43, president of Trendsettah USA, Inc., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and can be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison and restitution of the defrauded.

On December 3, District Judge Rodney Smith will deliver a sentence in Fort Lauderdale (South Florida).

Trendsettah is a California tobacco company that sold various tobacco products in Florida, such as large cigars and marijuana paraphernalia, most of which were imported from the Dominican Republic via Miami.

As part of his guilty plea, Alrahib admitted that he partnered with Gitano Pierre Bryant, Jr., a tobacco importer licensed by the Tobacco and Alcohol Trade and Tax Office (TTB) to import cigars.

Alrahib and Bryant agreed to reduce their costs by declaring a lower-than-real price on their imports to pay less for federal tobacco taxes.

During the course of the plan, Alrahib paid more than US$21 million for Dominican tobacco products and received more than US$700,000 in bribes from Bryant, according to the documents.

Alrahib also admitted to his involvement in a witness tampering scheme in which he sought to prevent a witness from speaking before a South Florida Grand Jury.

Bryant, Alrahib’s partner, was charged in a separate case, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison.

The judge ordered him to pay more than US$9 million in restitution.