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Former soldier pleads guilty to federal charge involving cigarette smuggling

Cigarette (Fried Dough/Flickr)

A former soldier pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to being involved in a cigarette-smuggling enterprise that operated between Fort Bragg and New York City, according to a release from the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Jonathan Rex Leach, 33, of Raleigh, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to trafficking in contraband cigarettes. He and four others were indicted in November.

Leach was one of three soldiers who used their privileges as members of the military to purchase more than 47,000 cartons of cigarettes at the Army Air Force Exchange Service or from commissary stores on Fort Bragg, the release said.

Leach and the others would then take the cigarettes to a storage facility in Fayetteville or Raleigh, where others involved in the operation would be waiting. Leach helped pack up carts of cigarettes into suitcase that were then loaded onto commercial passenger buses or mail them via UPS to New York, the release said.

Tractor trailers were also used to take cigarettes to New York.

Between April 16, 2014, and Nov. 25, 2015, Leach and other soldiers purchased more than 47,587 cartons of cigarettes on Fort Bragg. The cartons were resold in New York city, which resulted in the evasion of New York state and New York City excise taxes totaling $2,783,840, the release said.

Purchasing the cigarettes on Fort Bragg resulted in the loss of $158,642 in North Carolina sales taxes.

Leach faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

No sentencing date was given.

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© 2018 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.