Fredericksburg gas station owner pleads guilty to cigarette trafficking

RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WRIC) – A gas station owner in Fredericksburg has pleaded guilty to trafficking in more than $7 million worth of cigarettes without paying sales taxes.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release that 60-year-old Bernard Ekelemu entered the plea Thursday in federal court in Richmond.

According to his plea agreement, Ekelemu directed another person to purchase a Gulf gas station in 2013. He then registered a Virginia corporation to operate that gas station and obtained a “Certificate of Registration for the Collection of Virginia Sales and Use Tax” that exempted Ekelemu from paying the Virginia sales and use tax when making business purchases.

Prosecutors say Ekelemu bought more than $7 million worth of Virginia-stamped cigarettes and sold them to traffickers. Authorities say the traffickers sold the cigarettes on the black market in New York and other areas.

Ekelemu faces a maximum of five years in prison at sentencing on Aug. 16.

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