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Seven More Defendants Enter Guilty Pleas in Ongoing Prosecution of Tobacco Trafficking Ring

PRESS ADVISORY

Seven More Defendants Enter Guilty Pleas in Ongoing Prosecution of Tobacco Trafficking Ring

July 24, 2012

Seven additional defendants who were indicted for their role in an extensive tobacco trafficking ring have entered guilty pleas. The illegal tobacco trafficking ring spanned several counties and resulted in 50 individuals being arrested for violations of state law involving the illegal possession, sale and distribution of contraband cigarettes.

On Friday, July 20, 2012, Saji Kurian and Talha Mumtaz pled guilty in Gwinnett County Superior Court to one count of Possession of Cigarettes with Counterfeit Stamps (O.C.G.A. § 48-11-28). Kurian was sentenced by Judge Ronnie K. Batchelor under the First Offender Act to three years probation and a $500 fine. Mumtaz was sentenced by Judge Batchelor under the First Offender Act to five years to serve one year on house arrest. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $28,389.00.

On Monday, July 23, 2012, the following defendants entered guilty pleas in Gwinnett County Superior Court and were sentenced by Judge Batchelor.

Pragnesh Patel pled guilty to Theft by Taking (O.C.G.A. § 16-8-2) and was sentenced under the First Offender Act to five years to serve 90 days on house arrest and restitution in the amount of $10,339.00.

Amin Alibhai pled guilty to one count of Possession of Cigarettes with Counterfeit Stamps and was sentenced under the First Offender Act to one year probation and restitution in the amount of $5000.00.

Rashmikan Patel pled guilty to four counts of Possession of Cigarettes with Counterfeit Stamps and was sentenced under the First Offender Act to five years probation.

Kanaiyalel Patel pled guilty to two counts of Possession of Cigarettes with Counterfeit Stamps and was sentenced under the First Offender Act to five years to serve 90 days on house arrest. Ankitkumar Patel pled guilty to three counts of Possession of Cigarettes with Counterfeit Stamps and was sentenced under the First Offender Act to five years to serve 90 days on house arrest. Ankitkumar Patel is jointly and severally liable with Kanaiyalel Patel for restitution in the amount of $29,105.00

All defendants as a condition of probation will have to surrender any tobacco licenses they may have, and while on probation they cannot sell cigarettes, cannot own any business that sells cigarettes, cannot be employed by any business that sells cigarettes and cannot apply for or obtain a tobacco license.

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

The indictments were 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 OfficeGeorgia 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. Fourteen of the 50 defendants have now entered guilty pleas.