Tobacco dealer pleads not guilty to tax conspiracy

AP News
Posted: Oct 18, 2011 10:50 AM
Tobacco dealer pleads not guilty to tax conspiracy

A tobacco distributor closely watched by federal agents for a decade has pleaded not guilty to charges in Kentucky of using phony invoices to avoid paying taxes on millions of dollars' worth of cigarettes that he sold in several states.

Federal investigators have been tracking 41-year-old Pedro "Peter" Bello, of Miami, Fla., since at least 2002, when prosecutors in Texas sought to secretly listen to cell phone conversations he was involved in. He was linked to several large-scale investigations and named in a civil lawsuit brought by the city of New York over untaxed cigarettes, but never charged until now.

During an arraignment Tuesday in Louisville, U.S. Magistrate Judge Dave Whalin restricted Bello's travel to Kentucky and south Florida.