Cigarette-tax evasion aided terror, U.S. says
Eleven people, most of them Lebanese immigrants from Dearborn, have been charged with running an interstate cigarette smuggling racket that federal prosecutors allege helped finance terrorism.
The federal indictment, unsealed Tuesday, said the group transported large quantities of untaxed or low-taxed cigarettes from North Carolina and a New York American Indian reservation and sold them in Michigan.
The suspects allegedly attached counterfeit tax stamps to some of the packs of cigarettes to make it appear that Michigan state taxes had been paid, the indictment said. It said they also used phony credit cards to buy large quantities of cigarettes from unsuspecting retail and wholesale outlets.
Federal prosecutors want four of the suspects locked up pending trial, saying they pose a flight risk. Prosecutors said two of the accused contributed some of their profits to Hizballah, which has been designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization.