By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
GREENVILLE – Blackmarket tobacco scheme defendant Charles H. Wells was sentenced to 24 months in prison Tuesday.
Wells, 61, of Hopkinsville, Ky., will turn himself in to a federal prison in 60 days as it’s designated by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper sentenced Wells to three, 24-month terms to run concurrently and $15,000 in fines.
Wells pleaded guilty May 7 to charges that he was part of a multi-state scheme to defraud the U.S. and various states of cigarette taxes and fees. He also pleaded guilty to making false monthly tobacco reports and to money laundering.
He agreed to forfeit his interests in certain real and personal property estimated at more than $3 million.
Federal law gives the courts authority to seize any property or money gained in the commission of or from the fruits of certain crimes.
Wells faced up to 43 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.
In the charges against him, Wells was accused of conspiring with Jerry Burke of Tupelo and others in the scheme to evade cigarette taxes.
Federal investigation into this scheme goes back to August 2006 by the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Tupelo Police Department and Marshall County Sheriff’s Office.
Burke pleaded guilty to his part in the plot and is serving a prison sentence. Co-defendant Randy Benham of Memphis pleaded guilty with Burke in November 2009 but hasn’t been sentenced.
Others are in prison, await sentencing or are under investigation through the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oxford.