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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of North Carolina

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Former Soldier Stationed at Fort Bragg Pleads Guilty to Cigarette Smuggling

RALEIGH – The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Robert J. Higdon, Jr., announced that yesterday in federal court, before United States District Judge Terrance W. Boyle, JONATHON REX LEACH, 33, of Raleigh, pled guilty to one count of Conspiracy to Trafficking in Contraband Cigarettes.

LEACH was indicted on November 21, 2017, along with 4 others members of this criminal enterprise.

During the defendant’s guilty plea hearing, the Government summarized the evidence supporting the defendant’s guilty plea.  LEACH, a former member of the U.S. Army, participated in an organized contraband cigarette smuggling enterprise operating between Fort Bragg, North Carolina and New York, New York.  LEACH is one of three soldiers who used their privileges as a member of the United States Armed Forces to purchase over 47,000 cartons of cigarettes at AAFES (Army Air Force Exchange Service) or Commissary stores on Fort Bragg.  After purchasing the cigarettes, LEACH along with his co-conspirators would transport the cigarettes to a storage facility in Fayetteville or Raleigh, where other members of this criminal enterprise were waiting.  LEACH helped package the cartons of cigarettes into suitcases that would be loaded onto commercial passenger buses or mailed via UPS to New York City.  This organization also utilized tractor trailers to transport the cigarettes to New York City.

Between April 16, 2014 and November 25, 2015, more than 47,587 cartons of cigarettes were purchased at Fort Bragg by LEACH and other soldiers.  These cigarettes were then transported to New York City for resale, resulting in the evasion of New York State and New York City excise taxes totaling $2,783,840.  In addition, by purchasing these cigarettes on Fort Bragg, $158,642 of North Carolina sales tax was avoided.

At sentencing, the defendant faces a maximum of 5 years imprisonment and $250,000.00 fine. 

The Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) investigated the case.  Assistant United States Attorney Susan B. Menzer is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

Updated February 22, 2018