The history of cigarette smuggling is also a history of violence, threatened or actual, against people and property.[*] In our previous work, we detailed numerous examples. More recently, in March 2010, a man from Virginia admitted guilt in a murder-for-hire deal with a hit man in a case involving smuggled cigarettes.[55] In November 2008, an elderly couple from New York was killed just inside the Canadian border after a suspected cigarette smuggler plowed into their car while fleeing police.[56]

One cigarette wholesaler in Detroit — Martin & Snyder Product Sales — has had two of its trucks hijacked. One of the company’s “cash and carry” customers was shot three times as the merchandise he had just purchased — including cigarettes — was stolen from him, along with his car. While the customer survived, he lost a kidney in the shooting.[57]

Details recently became available in an older Michigan case we have mentioned before.[58] On Oct. 13, 2004, 107 cases of Philip Morris cigarettes were stolen from a truck operated by Columbian Distribution Services — a Grand Rapids-based company — while it was at a terminal of Eby-Brown Company in the city of Ypsilanti, Mich. The cigarettes were valued at the time at $173,340.[59] The robbery apparently involved a five-man team, but two have never been apprehended, according to an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice.[60] Court documents state that the driver-victim in this incident was “struck in [sic] the head with a heavy object, bound, blindfolded, robbed and left sitting on the ground as the truck was unloaded.”[61]

Remarkably, one of the three defendants in this case had been convicted of committing a “near[ly] identical crime, just a few years prior in time.”[62] In that 1997 crime, “the victim was wrestled to the ground, bound and gag[g]ed”[63] and told “ ‘we will get you’ ” should he talk.[64] According to the government’s sentencing memorandum, the defendant had also stolen cigarettes from Eby-Brown while working there as an employee. Ironically, he worked in the company’s stamping department, where tax stamps are placed on cigarettes to help thwart smuggling.

While serving time in prison for the 1997 robbery, the defendant had shared a cell with an individual who was then doing time for bank fraud, and who would later assist in the commission of the Eby-Brown robbery.[65] The third of the perpetrators had a lengthy police record of prior offenses, including assault, burglary and receiving stolen property.[66]


[*] Tax Foundation economist Patrick Fleenor has written that in 1967, the chairman of a smuggling investigative body said that legitimate tobacco-related workers were “confronted almost daily with the risk and dangers of personal violence which are now inherent in their industry.” Patrick Fleenor, “High Cigarette Taxes Stoke Bootlegging, Violence,” (Tax Foundation, 2010), http://www.taxfoundation.org/ news/show/26132.html (accessed December 13, 2010).


[55] Fleenor, “High Cigarette Taxes Stoke Bootlegging, Violence” (Tax Foundation, 2010), http://www.taxfoundation.org/news/show/ 26132.html (accessed Dec. 13, 2010).

[56] “Suspected Cigarette Smuggler Kills Couple in Crash,” The Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 16, 2008, http://bit.ly/dXKxJV (accessed Nov. 4, 2010).

[57] George Daiza co-owner of Martin & Snyder Product Sales, interview correspondence with Michael LaFaive, Feb. 12, 2008.

[58] LaFaive, Fleenor and Nesbit, “Cigarette Taxes and Smuggling” (Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 2008), 46, http://www.mackinac.org/archives/2008/s2008-12.pdf (accessed Dec. 10, 2010).

[59] Barbara McQuade, “Government Sentencing Memorandum, United States of America v. Lee Edward Newberry” (testimony before the United States District Court of Eastern Michigan, February 2010), 2.

[60] Susan Gillooly, e-mail correspondence with Michael LaFaive, Nov. 12, 2010.

[61] Barbara McQuade, “Government Sentencing Memorandum, United States of America v. Lee Edward Newberry” (testimony before the United States District Court of Eastern Michigan, February 2010), 5.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Ibid., 6.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Barbara McQuade, “Government Sentencing Memorandum, United States of America v. Edward Alford” (testimony before the United States District Court of Eastern Michigan, March 29, 2010).

[66] Terrence Berg, “Government Sentencing Memorandum, United States of America v. Lamar Larry” (testimony before the United States District Court of Eastern Michigan, November 2009).