A Duluth man who state prosecutors claim was tied to a now-defunct Forest Park tobacco wholesaler is facing deportation to India, after he pleaded guilty in Gwinnett County Superior Court this week to one count of posession of cigarettes with counterfeit stamps, according to state officials.
Sanjay Bector was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with 24 months to serve, by Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Ronnie K. Batchelor on Thursday, the Georgia Attorney General’s office has announced. The sentence is to be suspended upon his deportation, which was ordered earlier this year by an immigration judge.
Bector “knowingly” purchased cigarettes that carried counterfeit excise tax stamps in an attempt to avoid paying the state’s cigarette excise tax, according to the Attorney General’s office. He must pay the state $445,421 in restitution, had to surrender his tobacco license and is banned from selling cigarettes, or working for a business that sells cigarettes.
“The defendant in this case cheated the State of Georgia out of substantial tobacco tax revenue,” said Attorney General Sam Olens, in a written statement. “Due to the collaboration of federal, state and local officials, we were able to bring this individual to justice and ensure that he was put out of business and restricted from selling tobacco products in the future.”
State officials claim Bector, who was one of approximately 50 people arrested last October as part of a suspected illegal tobacco trafficking ring, was allegedly “associated” with a tobacco wholesaler in Forest Park, called City South. The Attorney General’s office asserts that “a number of illegal purchases are alleged to have been made” at the business, which they added has closed since the arrests.
Bector is accussed of being a “key conspirator” in the tobacco trafficking ring, which state officials say spanned “several” unspecified counties.
His arrest — along with the arrests of the 49 other people suspected of being part of the trafficking ring — came last fall, after a three-year investigation that included the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Atlanta Field Division, the Georgia Attorney General’s Office, the Georgia Department of Revenue, the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office, the Lawrenceville Police Department and the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department.
“ATF’s primary goal in tobacco enforcement is to enforce the federal laws relating to tobacco diversion and protect the revenue of the federal and state government,” said Scott Sweetow, the special agent in charge of the ATF’s Atlanta Field Division, in a written statement.
“Through tobacco diversion investigations, ATF disrupts and eliminates criminal organizations by identifying and arresting offenders who traffic illegal tobacco products,” Sweetow added. “This significant sentence handed down by the court represents the severity of the crimes these individuals were engaged in.”
Bector is the seventh of the 50 defendants from suspected tobacco trafficking ring who have entered guilty pleas, state officials said.