Customs Broker Sentenced to Prison in Connection with Scheme to Evade Federal Excise Tax on Southern District of Florida
Alberto Rodriquez, 65, of Briarwood, New York, was sentenced to prison today after previously pleading guilty today to mail fraud in connection with a scheme to evade federal excise tax on imported cigars.
Benjamin G. Greenberg, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and Ron Hancock, Acting Assistant Administrator for Field Operations, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), made the announcement.
According to information contained in the court record, from as early as July 2013, Rodriguez operated as a customs broker in the State of New York. Rodriguez contracted with two tobacco importers to import large cigars into the United States. In an effort to defraud the United States of excise tax due on the imported cigars, Rodriguez created false and fraudulent documents, including United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Forms 7501 ("Entry Summaries"), which misrepresented, among other things, the quantities of large cigars imported into the United States and the Federal tobacco excise tax due for those importations. In addition to consistently underreporting and evading the Federal tobacco excise tax, Rodriguez transmitted false and fraudulent documents to CBP using the United States Postal Service mail.
To profit from the scheme, Rodriguez sent invoices to the two tobacco importers reflecting the true quantities of imported large cigars and the properly calculated Federal tobacco excise tax due, which resulted in the importers paying Rodriguez more than what he paid to CBP.
To conceal the scheme, Rodriguez altered documents, including importer invoices and bank records, and provided these altered documents to TTB agents and employees, all for the purpose of misleading TTB and pretending that he had correctly calculated and paid to CBP the Federal tobacco excise tax due on the large cigars imported by the two importers.
Rodriguez previously pled guilty to an information charging him with mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341. In total, Rodriguez evaded approximately $503,681.15 in Federal Tobacco Excise Tax. U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga sentenced Rodriguez to 10 months in prison, to be followed by 6 months of house arrest and 3 years of supervised release. Rodriguez was also ordered to pay $503,681.15 in restitution to CBP.
Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of TTB in this matter. He also thanked Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation and CBP for their assistance. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher B. Browne.