California tobacco executive sentenced to five years in prison for conspiring to evade federal excise taxes on Dominican cigars


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Date: December 2, 2021


Miami, FL — A California tobacco company executive was sentenced to 60 months' imprisonment yesterday for his participation in a fraudulent scheme to avoid the payment of millions of dollars in excise taxes on imported tobacco products.

Akrum Alrahib of Los Angeles, California, was the President and Owner of Trendsettah USA, Inc. ("Trendsettah"), a California tobacco company authorized to transact business in Florida. Trendsettah sold various tobacco products, such as large cigars, and marijuana paraphernalia, such as "blunt wraps," most of which were imported from the Dominican Republic through Miami.

Previously, Alrahib admitted that he partnered with Gitano Pierre Bryant, Jr., a tobacco importer authorized by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), to import large cigars. Alrahib and Bryant agreed to lower their costs by underreporting the Federal Tobacco Excise Tax that was due and owing on the imported cigars. They consistently evaded Federal Tobacco Excise Tax by concealing the price Alrahib actually paid for the cigars.

During the course of the scheme, Alrahib paid over $21 million for Dominican tobacco products and received over $700,000 in kickbacks from Bryant.

Alrahib also admitted his participation in a witness tampering scheme, in which he sought to prevent a witness from testifying before a South Florida Grand Jury.

Alrahib previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. In addition to a term of imprisonment, Alrahib was ordered to serve an additional three years on supervised release and pay more than $7 million in restitution. The sentence was handed down by District Judge Rodney Smith in Fort Lauderdale.

Bryant, Alrahib's partner, was charged a separate case (16-cr-20838). He pled guilty, was sentenced to four years in prison, and ordered to pay over $9 million in restitution.

Juan Antonio Gonzalez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Carrie May, Acting Assistant Administrator for Field Operations, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and Darrell J. Waldon, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Washington, DC Field Office, made the announcement.

TTB and IRS-CI investigated this case with the assistance of Homeland Security Investigations in Miami. Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Browne and Jerrob Duffy of the Justice Department's Fraud Section prosecuted the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Grosnoff is handling the asset forfeiture component of the case.