South Florida's Black-Market Cigarette King and Terror Financier Likely to Plead Guilty | The Daily Pulp | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida


South Florida's Black-Market Cigarette King and Terror Financier Likely to Plead Guilty

A few weeks ago, New Times brought you the story of our own black-market cigarette king, Roman Vidal.

 The feds accused the gray-haired Cutler Bay resident of funneling millions of illegal smokes through the Port of Miami to England and Ireland. Worse, investigators say that Vidal's profits went to a group connected to the Real IRA, an Irish terrorist front that murdered two British soldiers in cold blood back in March.

Vidal initially plead not guilty to four felony charges of smuggling and fraud. But it looks like that's going to change.

This morning, U.S. Judge Alan Gold filed a hearing on August 14 for Vidal to change his plea. Vidal's public defender, Paul Korchin, hasn't responded to a call and an email from the Juice.

Even if Vidal pleads guilty to all four counts at the hearing, he won't face any charges related to his links to the Real IRA. As we reported, it's nearly impossible to prosecute smugglers like Vidal for funding terrorist groups.

What's more, Florida's cigarette tax just jumped by 300 percent a few weeks ago. Anyone want to bet a pack of Lucky Strikes that Roman Vidal isn't the last cigarette smuggler in South Florida?

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Tim Elfrink is an award-winning investigative reporter, the managing editor of the Miami New Times and the co-author of "Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era." Since 2008, he's written in-depth pieces on police corruption, fatal shootings and social justice issues across South Florida. He's won the George Polk Award and has been a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink