NASCAR Driver in Huge Tobacco-Smuggling Bust

Derek White faces 7 charges
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2016 12:03 PM CDT
NASCAR Driver in Huge Tobacco-Smuggling Bust
Driver Derek White, a member of the Mohawk tribe from Kahnawake, Quebec, exits his garage after practice for the NASCAR 5-Hour Energy 301 auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH, Friday, July 17, 2015.   (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

Seven hundred Canadian and US officers were involved in almost 70 searches Wednesday that led to the largest tobbaco-smuggling bust in North American history, NBC Sports reports. Almost 60 people were arrested, including NASCAR driver/owner Derek White, who turned himself in Wednesday after hearing about a warrant out for his arrest. Canadian officials, assisted by the US DEA and Homeland Security, started investigating illegal transports of tobacco from North Carolina to Canada in 2014. The alleged scheme, which the Montreal Gazette reports has links to biker gangs and Aboriginal organized crime, involved buying tobacco in the US and bringing it into Canada without declaring it, thus avoiding taxes. Police say that since 2014, at least 2,294 tons of tobacco were transported, meaning about $530 million in Canadian taxes went unpaid.

Profits from the tobacco sales were allegedly used to buy cocaine, and more than 1,800 pounds of cocaine was seized in the raids—along with about 46 pounds of meth, 35 pounds of cannabis, 100 grams of fentanyl, and millions in US and Canadian cash. White, 45, who became the first Native American driver in the Sprint Cup Series last July, faces three counts of conspiracy to commit fraud against the government, three counts of fraud toward the government, and one count of profiteering as a criminal organization. Per a chart police provided to Bloomberg, White was listed as one of the highest-ranking members of the smuggling organization. "This is the largest operation we’ve had to this day in connection to contraband tobacco, and also in cross-border crime between Canada and the United States," says a Quebec official. (More NASCAR stories.)

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