News conference set about ex-tobacco warehouse

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A news conference today is expected to reveal the city’s plans for a downtown warehouse seized during FBI raids in 2009.
Months ago, the large, nondescript building at the corner of Franklin and Front streets was the focus of official and unofficial discussions, perhaps to house a new public safety facility, although questions lingered about funding.
Tupelo Police Department, just two blocks away, has long lacked enough room for scores of officers, investigators and other law enforcement functions.
“I really can’t say,” said Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton on Monday when asked what the 10:30 a.m. news conference will announce.
State officials, who asked not to be identified, said they expect the event to focus on Tupelo’s acquisition of the building, land and other assets from the convictions associated with its help in cracking the multi-state and international blackmarket tobacco sales conspiracy.
The city’s announcement about the news event describes the location as “Old Milam Manufacturing Building.”
In the spring of 2009, federal and state law enforcement raided Global Distributors’ tobacco business warehouse at Franklin and Front streets and another tobacco storage warehouse off Highway 78 and north McCullough Boulevard. Their contents were sold at auction months later.
Multiple convictions followed on charges of selling cigarettes and other tobacco products through Mississippi to avoid paying federal and state taxes owed elsewhere.
In addition to prison sentences, the convictions yielded forfeits of real property, at least one airplane, vehicles and cash. While no immediate total on the forfeiture was available, it’s likely in the millions.
The city of Tupelo will reap the benefits of those forfeitures because of its role in cracking the tobacco scheme and will share with the FBI, ATF, State Auditor’s office, state Department of Revenue and Marshall County Sheriff’s Office.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com