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ST. LOUIS — More than 30 convenience store owners in the St. Louis area are heading to court as a result of last week's raid on several locations.
According to KMOV.com, a federal grand jury has indicted 35 store owners on federal conspiracy charges for trafficking contraband cigarettes, distributing controlled substances and money laundering.
Reports allege the suspects conspired for more than two years to buy contraband cigarettes in St. Louis, a low tax market, while transporting and distributing them in Chicago and New Jersey — states and municipalities with higher cigarette excise taxes.
The owners are accused of using several convenience stores they operated to create the appearance of legal cigarette purchases. Illegal profits from the contraband cigarette sales were laundered through accounts associated with the stores, according to the news outlet.
As CSNews Online previously reported, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) and the Internal Revenue Service were involved in executing warrants during raids on more than a dozen area c-stores in late May.
The case was also investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Illinois State Police, Illinois Department of Revenue, and Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
"The collaboration with our federal and local law enforcement partners is the key to breaking criminal enterprises in this area," said Special Agent in Charge James M. Gibbons of HSI Chicago.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of five to 20 years in prison and the possibility of a $1-million fine.