The former head of a now-defunct Mission Viejo tobacco company was in federal custody Monday for allegedly conspiring to evade payment of millions of dollars in excise taxes on imported cigars.
Akrum Alrahib, 41, of Los Angeles, was charged in the Southern District of Florida with conspiracy, wire fraud and violations of the Internal Revenue Code, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Alrahib was president of Trendsettah USA, which sold cigars and marijuana paraphernalia such as “blunt wraps,” many of which were imported from the Dominican Republic, according to the DOJ. In 2013, federal prosecutors said, Alrahib partnered with Gitano Pierre Bryant Jr., an authorized tobacco importer, to import large cigars from the Dominican Republic into Miami.
Alrahib and Bryant allegedly agreed to lower their costs by underreporting the Federal Tobacco Excise Tax that was due and owing on the imported cigars. The indictment alleges that Alrahib and Bryant consistently evaded Federal Tobacco Excise Tax by concealing the price Alrahib actually paid for the cigars.
Alrahib paid more than $9 million for untaxed tobacco products and received over $700,000 in kickbacks from Bryant, but did not pay the required federal excise tax, according to the indictment.
Alrahib was ordered Friday by a magistrate judge in San Diego to remain in custody pending transfer to Florida.
In February 2017, Bryant Jr., 58, of Palmetto Bay, Florida, was sentenced by a Florida judge to a consecutive term of 48 months’ imprisonment for evading $13 million in federal taxes on imported cigars. Bryant, who was on probation at the time of the offense, was previously sentenced to three years in federal prison for evading cigarette taxes, according to the DOJ.
In addition to the prison sentence, Bryant was ordered to pay more than $9 million in restitution to U.S. Customs and Border Protection — the agency tasked with collecting excise tax on imported tobacco products, the DOJ reported.