By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – James B. Trosper became the latest in a series of defendants to plead guilty in a multi-state blackmarket tobacco scheme.
The 78-year-old Rogers, Ark., man admitted to three counts of a scheme to defraud the U.S. and several states of more than $1 million in tobacco taxes and other fees.
Although he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court last Thursday, Trosper’s plea was signed May 3. It’s unclear why it took nearly five months to get to court.
Trosper faces up to 43 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oxford accused Trosper through what’s called an information, which is a criminal charge that doesn’t come from a grand jury.
The document filed Sept. 29 states the Trosper owned and operated Delta-Ozark Enterprises, a cigarette warehouse and distribution center in Grove, Okla., and did business with Randy Benham, in similar business in Tupelo and Memphis. Benham pleaded guilty to the scheme in November 2009 and has yet to be sentenced.
The information states that Trosper and Benham provided “unreported” sales to an Internet cigarette operation in Kentucky, owned by someone in New York. By diverting the cigarettes through Benham’s Globe Distribution operation in Tupelo, the New York dealer underpaid large amounts to the states where the tobacco products were sold.
Officials claimed the scheme ran from Nov. 14, 2006, through Jan. 26, 2009, selling nearly 285,000 cartons of discount cigarettes for nearly $2.14 million.
Trosper will not be sentenced until the U.S. Probation Service completes a report to be considered by the judge. Several others are serving time for guilty pleas to similar schemes, accused through the Northern District of Mississippi and in other jurisdictions.
Benham was arrested in May 2009 with Jerry G. Burke of Tupelo.
Monday, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons listed Burke, who is serving his 30-month sentence, as “in transit.” No immediate explanation was available about why he was not in the facility where he was originally sentenced.