UPDATE: Feds want $1.8M, plane allegedly used in cigarette scheme

TUPELO – While no criminal indictments are yet public, new details have surfaced about a lengthy federal investigation into a multi-state scheme to profit from untaxed cigarettes.

Two documents filed in the Northern District of Mississippi late Tuesday say:

• Jerry Burke of Tupelo flew a 1982 Beech airplane to transport “stolen” cigarettes and cigarettes that hadn’t been taxed.

• Nearly $2 million was paid to a confidential informant as a broker between the cigarette conspirators.

U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee, in the documents, says he wants the plane and the money forfeited to the U.S. government because both were used in commission of “unspecified unlawful acts.”

Burke told the Daily Journal this morning that he didn’t know anything about the allegations.

He was president and sole shareholder of Globe Wholesale Inc. of Tupelo, a tobacco wholesaler. The plane the feds want was titled as a Globe asset.

The Globe facility in downtown Tupelo was raided recently by federal agents and cited as part of the network used to avoid payment of taxes on cigarettes. Similar raids were reported in other states.

Although Burke sold Globe to Randy Benham of Memphis in October 2006, Greenlee says Burke continued as a paid consultant.

In earlier legal action, the government also seeks Benham’s property at 120 Franklin St., Tupelo, and everything in it.

Patsy R. Brumfield/Daily Journal