You are here

Additional Indictments and Guilty Plea in Case Involving North Georgia Illegal Tobacco Trafficking Ring

PRESS ADVISORY

Additional Indictments and Guilty Plea in Case Involving North Georgia Illegal Tobacco Trafficking Ring

January 23, 2012

On Friday, January 20, 2012, Cajetan Fernandes entered a guilty plea in Gwinnett County Superior Court for his role in a tobacco trafficking ring. Additionally, on January 17, 2012, a DeKalb County Grand Jury returned indictments against Shaukat Sayani, Leslie Charles and Amin Hudda.

Fernandes, a former employee of an alleged trafficker of contraband cigarettes, was convicted of one count of Possession of Cigarettes with Counterfeit Stamps (O.C.G.A. § 48-11-28), a felony. Judge Ronnie K. Batchelor sentenced him to 11 months, 29 days, with three months imprisonment reduced to time served. Fernandes’ probation will be suspended upon his release to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on grounds unrelated to his conviction.

Sayani was charged in DeKalb County Superior Court with one count of Racketeering (O.C.G.A. § 16-14-4(c)), two counts of Possession of Cigarettes with Counterfeit Stamps (O.C.G.A. § 48-11-28) and three counts of Sale of Non-Tax Paid Cigars (O.C.G.A. § 48-11-25). The racketeering charge against Sayani alleges that he endeavored to avoid the payment of state excise taxes on cigarettes by knowingly purchasing untaxed cigarettes which had counterfeit excise tax stamps. Sayani allegedly acquired and maintained approximately 516,000 untaxed cigarettes and avoided paying approximately $9,546.00 in state cigarette excise taxes.

Charles was charged in DeKalb County Superior Court with two counts of Possession of Cigarettes with Counterfeit Stamps (O.C.G.A. § 48-11-28). Hudda was charged in DeKalb County Superior Court with one count of Possession of Cigarettes with Counterfeit Stamps (O.C.G.A. § 48-11-28).

The indictments are the result of a joint federal and state law enforcement effort between the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Atlanta Field Division, Georgia Attorney General’s Office, Georgia Department of Revenue, the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office, the Lawrenceville Police Department and the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department. After a three year investigation by the ATF, a large-scale enforcement operation yielded multiple arrests on and shortly after October 19, 2011.

Assistant Attorney General Greg Lohmeier is prosecuting the case on behalf of the State of Georgia.

Members of the public should keep in mind that indictments contain only allegations against the individual(s) against whom the indictment is sought. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and it will be the government’s burden at trial to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the allegations contained in the indictment.