The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

September 27, 2012

Investigators seize tribal funds; U.S. attorney seeks forfeiture of cash

GROVE, Okla. — Business leaders of the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe would say nothing Thursday about the federal seizure of $266,000 from a Bank of Oklahoma account bearing the tribe’s name in connection with a Missouri-centered probe of millions of dollars worth of illegal cigarette sales.

A forfeiture complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., makes a federal claim on seizures of more than $2.5 million in bank accounts and cash, plus a plane, several tractor-trailers and hundreds of cartons of cigarettes seized from at least a dozen people, tribes and tobacco operations since January in a federal probe of contraband cigarette sales.

No one has yet been charged with a crime, though a man alleged to have participated in contraband trafficking in New York was taken into custody, according to the federal civil complaint.

Central to the probe is a company in Independence, Mo., named Cheap Tobacco Wholesale, along with its principals, Craig Sheffler and his wife, Nicole Sheffler, also known as Nicole Davis, and a Wichita, Kan., man, Harry Najim.

Authorities allege that the Shefflers forged documents to cover up where cigarettes were being obtained for distribution without required federal tax stamps. Najim, the government alleges, set up foreign bank accounts to launder money made from selling the contraband and traveled overseas to hide the proceeds of the scheme.

The probe widened to include people from Florida, New York, Washington and Canada who the government alleges distributed the illegal products, in addition to the Grove cigarette manufacturing operation of the Seneca-Cayuga Tobacco Co. The tribe makes the Skydancer brand of cigarettes. The tribe also owns a convenience store in New York that is named in the probe.

The tribe also owns Grand Lake Casino and a boat operation at Grove, though they are not listed as being subject to any forfeiture actions.

The government alleges that the tribe sold tax-free cigarettes and fuel at the Seneca, N.Y., convenience store and brokered a number of contraband operations in New York. The tribe is not a licensed wholesaler there, the government said.

A receptionist in the tribal office said Thursday that none of the leaders were in the office.

John R. Birkes, treasurer of the tribe’s business committee, reached on his cellphone, said he was in a meeting and could not talk, except to say, “We don’t have any comment.”

Leroy Howard is chief of the business committee. Other members are Charles Diebold, Geneva Fletcher, Jim Spicer, Richard Enyart and Katie Birdsong.

The government, from January through April, also seized an airplane from Najim; four tractor-trailers; $599,000 from a bank account in the name of Cheap Tobacco Wholesale Co.; $740,000, $615,000, $18,260 and $4,000 in cash during undercover operations or traffic stops of suspects; bank accounts from two other corporations; and nearly 400 cartons of name-brand cigarettes.

The government contends that those named in the network conspired to sell contraband cigarettes by filing false reports in Missouri through the Sheffler company as to the origin of the products, and that they defrauded the state of New York out of tax money that state should have been paid.

Time frame

THE GOVERNMENT CONTENDS that the illegal cigarette sales took place in 2011 and early 2012.

1
Text Only
Crime & Courts
  • Damien D Doxley 051314.jpg Prison term meted out in carjacking case

    A Newton County judge assessed a defendant in a Joplin carjacking case seven years in prison Friday on a conviction on a charge of tampering with a motor vehicle.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Scott Branden Smith 080114.jpg Comatose assault victim dies

    A Joplin man left in a coma from an apparent assault died this afternoon at Freeman Hospital West.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arrest made in assault that left Joplin man in coma

    Joplin police have arrested a suspect in an assault Sunday night that left a 63-year-old man in a coma at an intensive care unit in Freeman Hospital West.

    August 1, 2014

  • Pittsburg man facing charge in wake of thefts

    PITTSBURG, Kan. — Police have arrested one suspect and are looking for a second in the theft earlier this week of a pickup truck, trailer and air-conditioning units from a business in Pittsburg.

    August 1, 2014

  • Arson suspect faces felony escape charge

    A suspect wanted on an arson charge in Crawford County, Kansas, is now facing a felony escape charge in Missouri after he allegedly tried to get away from Joplin police during transport to the city’s jail.

    August 1, 2014

  • Man picks up burglary charge after pursuit

    NEVADA, Mo. — A man wanted on several warrants picked up a burglary charge this week when he allegedly burst into a residence in Nevada while running from police.

    August 1, 2014

  • Sheldon resident hurt in accident in Vernon County

    A Sheldon man was injured in a single-vehicle accident at 6:40 p.m. Wednesday on Route DD, two miles west of Bellamy in Vernon County, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

    August 1, 2014

  • Former Eagle Rock postmaster sent to prison

    A federal judge today sentenced a former postmaster at Eagle Rock to three years and eight months in prison without parole for conspiring to rob a convenience store.

    July 31, 2014

  • Joplin Court Log

    Joplin court log for July 31, 2014.

    July 31, 2014

  • Joplin couple indicted on child pornography charges

    A federal grand jury today indicted a Joplin couple for alleged sexual exploitation of a second child in addition to a girl who was the subject of a previous indictment of the husband for producing and distributing child pornography.

    July 23, 2014

Local News
Sports
Facebook
Poll

Do you plan on voting in the Aug. 5 elections being held in Missouri and Kansas?

Yes
No
     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
NDN Video
Renewed Violence Taking Toll on Gaza Residents 2 Americans Detained in North Korea Seek Help US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Gaza Truce Unravels; Israel, Hamas Trade Blame Raw: Tunisia Closes Borders With Libya Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction