A 45-year-old NASCAR driver was arrested Wednesday for his role in a huge cigarette smuggling ring that saw biker gangs, organized crime and indigenous people conspire to illegally transport tobacco into Canada and sell it at dirt cheap prices.
Derek White, a member of the Mohawk tribe who lives on a reservation where the cigarettes were ultimately sold, was one of 60 people arrested as a part of what's been called "the biggest tobacco-smuggling bust in North American history." White has been racing stock cars since 2009 and has his first Sprint Cup race last year.
Police began looking into the ring in 2014 and have evidence of 158 illegal tobacco shipments, totaling 2,294 tons, from 2014 to 2016. Police say this deprived Canada of more than half a billion in tax revenue. The tobacco, which was purchased in leaf form in North Carolina, was taken across the Canadian border in trucks and not declared. This allowed smugglers to avoid taxes. The tobacco was then taken to reservations,turned into cigarettes and sold for pennies. Think 200 cigarettes for $5.
The criminal activity didn't stop there either. Some of the money made from the illegal tobacco sales was used to buy cocaine. Some of it was laundered in Europe.
The investigation required the efforts of nearly 700 Canadian and American law enforcement members who carried out 70 raids in Montreal, Ontario and surrounding areas. More than 58 tons of tobacco was seized, along with 836 kilos of cocaine and a bit of meth, weed and fentanyl.