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Executive Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy To Evade Federal Excise Taxes On Dominican Cigars

MIAMI, Fla. (CW44 News At 10)– A California tobacco company executive on Thursday admitted his participation in a fraudulent scheme to avoid the payment of millions of dollars in excise taxes on imported tobacco products.

Akrum Alrahib, 43, of Los Angeles, California, was the President of Trendsettah USA, Inc. ("Trendsettah"), a California tobacco company authorized to transact business in Florida.  Trendsettah sold various tobacco products, such as large cigars, and marijuana paraphernalia, such as "blunt wraps," most of which were imported from the Dominican Republic through Miami.

As part of his guilty plea, Alrahib admitted that he partnered with Gitano Pierre Bryant, Jr., a tobacco importer authorized by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), to import large cigars.  Alrahib and Bryant agreed to lower their costs by underreporting the Federal Tobacco Excise Tax that was due and owing on the imported cigars.  They consistently evaded Federal Tobacco Excise Tax by concealing the price Alrahib actually paid for the cigars.

During the course of the scheme, Alrahib paid over $21 million for Dominican tobacco products and received over $700,000 in kickbacks from Bryant.

Alrahib also admitted his participation in a witness tampering scheme, in which he sought to prevent a witness from testifying before a South Florida Grand Jury.

Alrahib pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.  Alrahib can be sentenced to up to five years' imprisonment and ordered to pay restitution.  Sentencing has been scheduled before District Judge Rodney Smith in Fort Lauderdale on December 3, 2021.

Bryant, Alrahib's partner, was charged in a separate case (16-cr-20838).  He pled guilty, was sentenced to four years in prison, and ordered to pay over $9 million in restitution.

Juan Antonio Gonzalez, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Carrie May, Acting Assistant Administrator for Field Operations, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and Darrell J. Waldon, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Washington, DC Field Office, made the announcement.

TTB and IRS-CI investigated this case. Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Browne and Jerrob Duffy of the Justice Department's Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Grosnoff is handling the asset forfeiture component of the case.

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