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Contraband
03/06/2009

Cutler Bay resident indicted as part of a large scale cigarette smuggling and money laundering operation

MIAMI - A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) led investigation resulted in a 57-year-old Florida man indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and smuggling goods out of the United States.

Roman Vidal was arraigned on an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Miami yesterday, on charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and smuggling goods out of the United States.

Vidal, who had been arrested pursuant to a complaint on February 19, 2009, was released pending trial on bond on February 20, 2009.

"Today's indictment is a result of a joint investigation by ICE and the European Anti-Fraud Commission into a large scale cigarette smuggling and money laundering operation," said Anthony Mangione, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Miami. "This case is significant because our investigation uncovered that Roma Vidal is working with a criminal organization that has associates operating out of Spain, Ireland and other European countries as well as in the Southern District of Florida.

According to the indictment, the investigation revealed that Vidal ran the Miami portion of the operation of an organization that smuggled cigarettes out of the Port of Miami, Spain, Great Britain, and Ireland.

The indictment alleges that Vidal arranged for the purchase of hundreds of cases of cigarettes from Panama and the transportation of those cigarettes into the Port of Miami. He then arranged for the purchase of other cargo, such as wood flooring and building insulation material, to be used as cover loads to conceal the cigarettes which were re-packed with the cover load material.

The indictment further alleges that under the direction of Vidal, false bills of lading were prepared that only declared the cover load material. These bills of lading were presented to the shipping companies and overseas customs services. Customs duties and taxes were based on the falsely declared cargo, thus no duties or taxes were paid on the cigarettes.

Information contained in the affidavit includes that on two separate occasions, Vidal transported approximately 13.3 million cigarettes in shipments, one to Dublin, Ireland and one to Felixstowe, Great Britain. Based upon the false bills of lading, custom duties and taxes paid on these shipments were approximately, $2,900 and $2,500, respectively. The true customs duties and taxes that should have been paid on these shipments were $2.1 million each.

U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta thanked Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Investigations, and the European Anti-Fraud Office based in Brussels, Belgium for their joint outstanding work on this case. Extensive assistance was provided by law enforcement agencies from Ireland, Great Britain, Germany and Spain as well as the U.S. Department of Justice, Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, Criminal Division. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Stone.

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