Police: NASCAR driver had key role in major tobacco-smuggling ring

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TALLADEGA, AL - MAY 02: Derek White, driver of the #40 Braille Battery/Grafoid Dodge, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

(March 31, 2016) – A NASCAR driver was among 60 people arrested in what authorities described as the largest tobacco-smuggling bust in North American history.

Derek White became the first Native American driver in the Sprint Cup Series when he raced in New Hampshire last year. He’s made 22 career starts in the Xfinity Series and also ran six races in the Camping World Truck Series.

According to NBC Sports, the DEA and Homeland Security launched the investigation targeting White and dozens of others in 2014. Nearly 70 searches took place Wednesday involving about 700 law enforcement officers from the U.S. and Canada. White turned himself in after learning about his arrest warrant.

White, 45, is from Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada. Charges against him include three counts of conspiracy to commit fraud against the government, three counts of fraud against the government and one count of profiteering as a criminal organization.

According to Bloomberg, White and others implicated in the smuggling ring are accused of transporting tobacco from North Carolina to Canada. That tobacco was then resold in Canada; profits were used to buy cocaine and other drugs, authorities allege. The tobacco shipments were not declared at the border, meaning they were not taxed. Cigarettes could be manufactured cheaply and sold for less money at the Kahnawake and Six Nations reserves, investigators said.

Authorities estimated the smuggling operation cost the Canadian government about $530 million in taxes and transported about 2,294 tons of tobacco.

As part of the investigation, authorities seized more than 1,800 pounds of cocaine, 46 pounds of methamphetamine and 35 pounds of cannabis. Authorities also seized more than $1.5 million in Canadian currency and more than $3 million in U.S. currency.

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