Burke's sentence appears near for cigarette scheme

Jerry Burke of Tupelo, who pleaded guilty in a multi-state black market cigarette scheme, appears near to being sentenced.
Wednesday, a federal court document shows that through his attorney, Burke objects to his pre-sentence report.
The report is developed by the U.S. Probation Service to offer guidelines to the judge about what the defendant’s sentence should be.
Typically, the defendant gets the report a couple of weeks ahead of sentencing so that adjustments can be made, if necessary.
Specific objections aren’t contained in the notice to the court.
Burke, 68, and Randy Benham, 44, of Memphis pleaded guilty to three-count charges Nov. 24, 2009, that they executed a scheme to defraud the U.S., Mississippi and other states of millions of dollars in taxes and fees from the unlawful distribution of cigarettes, to making false tobacco reports, and to money laundering.
U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper Jr. of Greenville presides over the case.
Benham’s public file has had no activity since his plea.
Burke and Benham each face up to 20 years in prison on two counts and up to three years in prison on the third count, as well as up to $750,000 in fines.
With his guilty plea, Burke agreed to forfeit more than $1.8 million in cash, a 1982 Beech C90 Turbo Prop airplane and two SUVs.
In April and May 2009, federal agents raided two Lee County tobacco warehouses operated by Burke and Benham.
Ultimately, the nearly 1 million cartons of tobacco products were sold at auction for $277,635 by the Mississippi State Tax Commission and the U.S. Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
A condition of their plea deals was that they cooperate with federal investigators and prosecutors.
Subsequently, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oxford announced other arrests and guilty pleas associated with the scheme.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal