Customs broker fakes documents for cigar importers and admits mail fraud

A customs broker used cigars to run a $500,000 fraud. Customs brokers are supposed to help importers to make sure they pay the right amount of tariffs on imports and that the paperwork is correct. Alberto Rodriguez, 65, has admitted to the fraudulent scheme. The Court is deciding how much time he will spend in federal prison for mail fraud. According to Rodriguez’s guilty plea, two companies wanted to import large cigars. So they went to customs broker Rodriguez. A customs broker, among other things, will make sure the appropriate duties and taxes get paid. Rodriguez created documents, including Customs forms called “Entry Summaries,” which included lies about how many large cigars the companies would be importing and the Federal Tobacco Excise Tax owed. It’s these documents that went through the mail and made this a mail fraud case.

Though it occurred out of Rodriguez’s business in New York, the case went through federal court in the Southern District of Florida. He used the mails to send fraudulent statements to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in Miami. Meanwhile, the invoices Rodriguez sent to the two companies reflected the actual amount of cigars imported and excise tax owed. That’s the amount the companies sent Rodriguez. After he paid Customs and Border Patrol the taxes according to the false information he’d put on the documents he sent Customs, he had turned a fraudulent profit.

To cover his scheme, Rodriguez changed invoices and bank records, then fed those documents to Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau agents. Rodriguez made $503,681.15 before his scheme was discovered.