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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 20, 2016

South Florida Tobacco Importer Charged with Failure to Pay Over $13 Million in Federal Excise Taxes

A South Florida tobacco importer was arrested and charged with fraudulently evading $13 million in federal taxes on imported cigars.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Tom Crone, Assistant Administrator for Field Operations, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and Thomas M. Jankowski, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Washington, DC Field Office, made the announcement.

Gitano Pierre Bryant, Jr., 55, of Palmetto Bay, was charged by criminal complaint with violations of the Internal Revenue Code, including: keeping or making any false or fraudulent record, return, report, or inventory, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section  5762(a)(2); refusing to pay Federal Tobacco Excise Tax on large cigars, and attempting to evade or defeat the tax or payment thereof, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section  5762(a)(3); and willfully attempting to evade or defeat Federal Tobacco Excise Tax on large cigars, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section  7201. Each of these offenses carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Bryant was also charged with willfully aiding or assisting in the preparation or presentation of a fraudulent or false document, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section  7206(2): an offense punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

According to the complaint, Bryant was the owner of Havana ’59 Cigar Company (“Havana 59”).  Between 2008 and 2014, Havana 59 was a licensed importer of tobacco products, including “large cigars” weighing more than three pounds per 1,000 cigars.

The complaint alleges that Bryant consistently underpaid the Federal Tobacco Excise Tax due on imported large cigars and, in an attempt to cover up the scheme, altered documents to conceal the price he paid for foreign-made cigars.

According to the complaint, Bryant continued to underpay taxes on imported cigars after May of 2015, when he was convicted and placed on Federal probation for evading Federal Tobacco Excise Tax due on cigarettes.

The complaint further alleges that, between January of 2012 and June of 2016, Bryant evaded over $13 million in Federal Tobacco Excise Tax.

A pre-trial detention hearing for Bryant, on these charges, is scheduled before United States Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman for October 21, 2016, in Miami.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the TTB and IRS-CI.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher B. Browne.

A complaint is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Topic(s): 
Tax
Updated October 21, 2016