Owner of raided facility owner on federal docket

TUPELO – A Memphis man accused of involvement in a black-market cigarette operation gained official criminal-docket status Monday in the U.S. District Court for Northern Mississippi.
Randy Benham’s name showed up in a filing dated Oct. 30, represented by Steven E. Farese of Ashland. But the case docket contained no details about what he’s been charged with.
Benham was the owner of a Tupelo warehouse at 120 N. Front St., which was raided in May by federal agents. They seized hundreds of thousands of cartons of tobacco products on which no state or federal taxes had been paid.
Although he was not indicted after the raid, Benham and Jerry Burke of Tupelo were mentioned prominently in federal documents to seize the property, an airplane and $1.89 million in cash the government said could be linked to the multi-state crime ring.
Burke was not indicted but is scheduled to plead guilty to unspecified charges Nov. 24 in Greenville.
Last week, nearly 1 million cartons of cigarettes and small cigars were sold at auction by the Mississippi Tax Commission.
Most are bound for foreign countries, with no state or federal taxes due. Gross sale proceeds exceeded $277,000 although officials earlier said they hoped for much more.
The names of eight persons, all from outside of Mississippi, were listed as the products’ owners. It’s not known if they, too, will have criminal charges brought against them.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal