Wilson farmer gets prison sentence in tobacco smuggling scheme

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 22, 2021

Associated Press

A North Carolina farmer has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison in connection with a smuggling operation that moved tobacco into Canada, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

A news release said Phil Howard, 55, was sentenced for conspiring to commit money laundering and filing a false tax return. The judge also ordered Howard to serve three years of supervised release and to pay approximately $1 million in restitution to the U.S. The sentence was handed down on Thursday.

Documents and information presented in court say Howard arranged at least 231 times to transport tobacco from Wilson to the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation Reservation near the U.S.-Canada border. Co-conspirators then smuggled the tobacco over the St. Lawrence River and to the Kahnawake Mohawk Nation Reservation in Quebec, where it was turned into contraband cigarettes, authorities said.

In all, the news release said, the conspiracy smuggled more than 6 million pounds of tobacco into Canada, resulting in a tax loss to Canada exceeding $600 million. The court documents say Howard received payment in cash, cigarettes and wires, laundered more than $2 million and failed to report it on his tax returns, including filing false tax returns for 2014 through 2018.