‘Operation Southern Lights’ busts massive NC based cigarette trafficking, money laundering ring

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — U.S. Marshals are calling the bust of a Cumberland County based cigarette trafficking ring one of the largest operations of its kind, WNCN reports.

“Operation Southern Lights” tracked cigarettes being smuggled and sold illegally in New York, according to U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon.

The cigarettes were reportedly bought in massive quantities in Fayetteville.

They were then moved to New York and sold illegally without a tobacco stamp after going through Virginia and Syracuse.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the total amount of money taken in by illegal cigarette sales added up to more than $12.3 million.

“Operation Southern Lights” is one of the most substantial operations in the Eastern District’s history, U.S. Marshals say.

26 raids were performed at the same time by agents in North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida and New York.

Due to the operation, at least 31 people were indicted on charges of tax fraud, Higdon said.

Officials say at least six people are on the run from law enforcement.

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