Virginia Man Agrees to $5M Restitution in Cigarette Case
A businessman convicted in a cigarette smuggling case has agreed to pay restitution totaling more than $5 million to Virginia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and New York City.
U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy says 50-year-old Vijay N. Patel of Fredericksburg also will forfeit $625,000.
Patel pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Charlottesville to one count of conspiracy to violate the federal Contraband Cigarette Smuggling Act. Sentencing is set for May 14.
Patel and two co-defendants, Pullin P. Amin and Diveshkumar Desai of Fredericksburg, were accused of buying cigarettes from legitimate sources and then selling them to traffickers. The cigarettes were taken outside Virginia for resale.
Amin and Desai pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in December and agreed to pay restitution and forfeitures. Their sentencings are set for April and May.
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The NBC29 newsroom received the following press release from the United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy Western District of Virginia's Office:
The leader of a contraband cigarette smuggling organization that trafficked millions of dollars in cigarettes pled guilty last Friday in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville.
Vijay Nanubhai Patel, 50, a Fredericksburg businessman, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the federal Contraband Cigarette Smuggling Act. Patel agreed to pay over $5,000,000 in restitution and to forfeit $625,000 as a result of this crime.
Two other members of the Patel criminal organization, Diveshkumar Desai, 23 and Pullin P. Amin, 30, both of Fredericksburg, and the organization's main customer, Amadou Diallo, of the Bronx, N.Y., previously pled guilty to similar conspiracy charges in December and have agreed to criminal forfeitures and restitution. The men will be sentenced in April and May.
"For years, Mr. Patel and his co-conspirators operated a lucrative business trafficking in contraband cigarettes," United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said today.
"Because of the thorough and persistent investigative activity of federal and state agencies working together, they are now out of business and facing significant time in federal prison. Trafficking in contraband cigarettes is a serious crime with serious implications for our economy. The United StatesAttorney's Office will continue to hold responsible those who illegally attempt to avoid paying taxes."
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli extends his appreciation to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia, for their prosecution of this criminal enterprise. "Contraband cigarette traffickers not only rob our states of millions of dollars in tax revenue; they also create an unfair advantage over legitimate Virginia businesses who play by the rules and end up losing business to those who do not," said Cuccinelli.
"Thanks to the outstanding partnership between ATF, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia, and the Virginia Attorney General's investigators, another multimillion dollar cigarette trafficking ring was broken up," said ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Dan Kumor.
Today's guilty plea results from a joint federal, state and local, investigation led by the Virginia Attorney General's Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Maryland Comptroller's Field Enforcement Division, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, the Spotsylvania County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, and the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office.
Assistant United States Attorney Ronald Huber and Special Assistant United States Attorneys Ramin Fatehi and Thomas Shaia are prosecuting the case for the United States.