UPDATE: State plans to auction off nearly 1 million cartons of contraband cigarettes

TUPELO – Buying in bulk takes on a whole new meaning Oct. 27, when the State Auditor’s Office and State Tax Commission plan to auction off nearly 1 million cartons of contraband cigarettes.

Proceeds will go into the state general fund, as well as division to other jurisdictions involved in a two-year-long investigation into a multi-state, multi-country blackmarket cigarette operation.

Today, Auditor Stacey Pickering hosted a news conference to announce the auction and show off the warehouse full of boxed cigarettes – manufactured from Armenia and the Phillippines to Mexico and Canada.

The tobacco products reportedly were seized in two Tupelo area raids last spring.

No one has been indicted in what Pickering described as a tax-evasion scheme, but one Tupelo man, Jerry G. Burke, is scheduled to plead guilty for his part.

The U.S. Department of Justice is believed to be preparing cases against others accused of involvement.

The two properties raided were at 120 N. Front St., Tupelo, and 278 Highway 178 northeast of town, where the news conference occurred.

• For more details, come back to NEMS360.com or read Thursday’s Daily Journal or Patsy’s blog, From the Front Row on NEMS360.com.

Patsy Brumfield/Daily Journal