Jan. 18, 2010

Californian pleads guilty in Blue Stilly tobacco tax scheme

A California-based cigarette broker has admitted his part in a $20 million scheme to sell contraband cigarettes to the Blue Stilly Smoke Shop on the Stillaguamish Reservation.
Rick Conn pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. He admitted that he brokered a cigarette deal between Cowlitz Candy and Tobacco and the Arlington smoke shop.
Prosecutors allege that the Cowlitz Candy illegally sold untaxed cigarettes to the Blue Stilly.
The shop was owned by Ed and Linda Goodridge, their son Eddie Goodridge Jr., and a relative, Sara Schroedl.
Authorities believe the Goodridges were able to avoid paying more than $20 million in cigarette taxes by faking invoices and disguising the ownership of the shipments.
The Goodridges were on the tribal council when they took over operation of the shop.
They were sentenced to prison in March and were ordered to pay more than $25 million that should have gone to Washington state through tobacco taxes.
Conn and two other co-conspirators are scheduled to be sentenced April 16.