A man who operates a Gulf gas station in Fredericksburg, Virginia was sentenced to two years in prison for trafficking contraband cigarettes.
In November 2013, 60-year-old Bernard Ekelemu of Fredericksburg instructed someone else to acquire the gas station. After the acquisition, Ekelemu registered a corporation from Virginia to operate the business and obtained a “Certificate of Registration for the Collection of Virginia Sales and Use Tax,” exempting him from paying state sales and use tax on business purchases, according to court records.
After opening business memberships with multiple Virginia-based wholesale cigarette distributors and wholesale clubs, Ekelemu was able to make purchases without paying sales taxes. Between March 2014 and November 2016, he made over $7.2 million worth of sales-tax-free purchases of Virginia-stamped cigarettes, which were stored in various locations. Cigarette traffickers would purchase those cigarettes from storage units in Springfield and Fredericksburg. The cigarettes were smuggled to New York State and other areas to be sold on the black market.
Along with the 2-year prison sentence, Ekelemu was ordered to forfeit $1.42 million and $3 million in restitution.