FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 16, 2001
Dixie A. Morrow, Assistant U.S. Attorney
(LAREDO) U.S. Attorney Gregory A. Serres announced today that Jaime Rodriguez, 52, of Vineland, New Jersey, was sentenced by United States District Judge Keith P. Ellison to 33 months imprisonment, 3 years supervised released, and a $200 court assessment for his transportation of fraudulent New Jersey cigarette tax stamps (Count One) and making a false statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Count Two). Rejecting Rodriguez's petitions for leniency, Judge Ellison described the defendant's conduct as an elaborate scheme to defraud, proven by overwhelming evidence at trial.
A jury returned guilty verdicts on August 7, 2001, following two days of trial testimony and argument. On November 17, 2001, Rodriguez drove a rented Ford F-150 pick-up truck to the United States Border Patrol Checkpoint located on IH-35, approximately 15 miles north of Laredo. During primary inspection, a law enforcement canine alerted to the possible presence of contraband and the vehicle was referred to secondary inspection. Following a second canine alert, Border Patrol agents searched the spare tire mounted beneath the bed of the truck, recovering 10 boxes containing 494,460 tax stamps. The stamps were valued at $395,568 and would represent lost revenue to the State of New Jersey in that amount had they been used. After arrest, Rodriguez made a false statement to FBI Special Agent Thomas Ensz, falsely declaring that his fingerprints might be found on the tire and at least one box of stamps because Border Patrol Agents forced him touch them after he was detained.
The matter was investigated by the United
States Border Patrol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the
United States Customs Service, and the State of New Jersey Department
of the Treasury Division of Taxation, and was prosecuted by Assistant
U.S. Attorney Dixie Morrow of the Laredo Office.