Jail Sentence for US Cigarette Smuggler
In the first case of its kind, a third country national has received a custodial sentence in the United States for fraud against the financial interests of the European Union and has been ordered to re-pay $1.5 million in restitution.
In the so-called "Miami" case, the Court in the Southern District of Florida has sentenced a US citizen to 2 years in jail and ordered him to re-pay a massive $1.5 million to the EU authorities for his part in smuggling millions of cigarettes onto the EU black market. Roman Vidal was handed the sentence on Friday after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to charges relating to his part in defrauding European taxpayers of several million Euros in customs duties and taxes. The defendant had conspired with individuals in the EU to smuggle cigarettes mis-described as other goods from the port of Miami into a number of EU countries including Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Following the sentencing, OLAF's Acting Director General Mr. Nicholas Ilett said " This is another fantastic result in this large-scale, complex international investigation which has been coordinated by OLAF. As well as the USA, this investigation spanned nine EU Member States and several countries in Central and South America. 43 million cigarettes were seized in the EU and 11 arrests were made. We are particularly grateful for the excellent cooperation and support we have received from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the US Department of Justice in respect to the American aspects of this case. Not only must Mr. Vidal spend the next 2 years in jail, he must also pay back his share of the illegal profits ”.
Mr. Ilett added that he would also like to congratulate the Irish Revenue and Customs Service, German Customs, the Guardia Civil in Spain and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs UK which have all played a significant role in ensuring the successful outcome in this investigation and preventing further financial losses.
A news release dated February 5th, issued by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Officie of Investigations, Miami, stated the following:
CUTLER BAY RESIDENT SENTENCED FOR SMUGGLING
Defendant Smuggled More than 27 Million Cigarettes out of the United States
Jeffrey H. Sloman, United States Attorney and Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Investigations, Miami Field Office (ICE) announce that Roman Vidal, 57, of Homestead, Florida, was sentenced to 24 months by Honorable Judge Alan S. Gold for offenses related to the smuggling of cigarettes out of the United States and into various European Union countries in order to avoid paying more than $5.6 million in customs and tax duties. The defendant was also ordered to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution.
According to court documents and statements made in court today, Vidal, conspired with others here in Miami, as well as others located in Spain, Great Britain, Ireland and Germany to smuggle cigarettes out of the Port of Miami into Aachen, Germany, Dublin, Ireland, and Felixstowe, Great Britain. Vidal, who ran the Miami portion of the operation, arranged for the purchase of hundreds of cases of cigarettes from Panama and the transportation of those cigarettes into the Port of Miami. He then arranged for the purchase of other cargo, such as yarn, wood flooring and building insulation material, to be used as cover loads to conceal the cigarettes.
According to court document and statements made in court today, Vidal directed the preparation of false bills of lading that only declared the cover load materials. These bills of lading were presented to the shipping companies and overseas customs services. Custom duties and taxes were based only on the falsely declared cargo and thus, no duties or taxes were paid on the cigarettes.
On four separate occasions ranging from December 2001 through April 2008, Vidal smuggled 2,702 master cases of cigarettes - totaling over 27 million individual cigarettes - out of the Port of Miami. Based upon the false bills of lading only a few thousand dollars of custom duties and taxes were paid on each shipment. The true custom duties and taxes that should have been paid include $1,552,515.00 to the German government, $2,115,657 to the Irish government and $1,968,997 to the British government.
U.S. Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman commended the excellent joint investigative efforts of the ICE agents as well as agents from the German Customs Investigation Services, the Irish Office of Revenue Commissioners, Investigations & Prosecutions Division, Customs Investigation, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs of the United Kingdom and the Spanish Guardia Civil. He also thanked the European Union Anti-Fraud Office based in Brussels, Belgium for their outstanding contribution to the investigation. Additional commendation was extended to Lincoln Jalelian, former Trial Attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, Organized Crime and Racketeering Section for his significant contribution to the case. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Stone.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.
Press Release by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida: http://www.justice.gov/usao/fls/PressReleases/100205-01.html
Press Release OLAF/09/15
Press Release OLAF/09/04