Kansas City prosecutors announced criminal charges Wednesday against 17 people who allegedly were part of a national conspiracy to illegally traffic cigarettes.
The federal charges are linked to the law enforcement seizure last year of $2.6 million, an airplane and four semi trucks that were purchased with proceeds from the endeavor.
Conspirators allegedly bought more than $17 million worth of cigarettes from undercover agents in Kansas City and eventually sold them in New York without paying the required $4.35 per pack excise tax, according to the charges.
The investigation began in December 2009 after authorities discovered cigarettes without tax stamps being sold illegally at Kansas City area convenience stores, according to federal court records.
The conspiracy allegedly involved the illegal sale of tens of millions of dollars worth of cigarettes.
Those charged in the indictment announced Wednesday are Craig Sheffler, 43, and his wife, Nicole Sheffler, 35, both of Independence; Harry Najim, 65, of Wichita; T. Cameron Jones, 57, of Quilcene, Wash.; Gholamreza Tadaiyon, 50, of Weston, Fla.; Gerald E. Barber, 67, of Virginia; William F. Parry, 52, of Irving, N.Y.; Tara Sundown, 48, of Basom, N.Y.; Philip Christ, 54, and Salvatore Tornabene, 44, both of Hamburg, N.Y.; Mousa Juma, 62, of Chesapeake, Va.; Teddy Frenchman, 39, of Winnebago, Neb.; David Bishop, 43, Mark Bishop, 54, and Piotr Hoffmann, 39, all of Montreal; Payam Kheimehdooz, 42, of Miami; and, Mohsen Rostami, 47, of North Lauderdale, Fla.
Prosecutors also charged AJ’s Candy & Tobacco, an Irving, N.Y., firm that distributes cigarettes and other products to retail sellers, in the case.
In May, Keith Donald Stoldt, 59, of Cowlesville, N.Y., pleaded guilty in Kansas City to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and contraband cigarette trafficking for his role in the alleged scheme.
Stoldt and his wife operate the Totem Smoke Shop on the Tonawanda Seneca Indian Reservation in Basom, N.Y.