Seven plead guilty to selling $1 million in cigarettes on the black market

A federal judge on Wednesday handed out prison sentences to seven people, including five Triangle residents, after they were convicted of using an elaborate credit card scheme to purchase more than $1 million worth of cigarettes from Sam’s Club stores that were later sold on the black market.

Prosecutors accused the seven of obtaining stolen credit information from overseas hackers. They then encoded the stolen credit information onto plastic gift cards, which they took to Walmart stores in various states and bought genuine Walmart gift cards. The genuine gift cards were taken to Sam’s Club stores and used to buy more than $1 million in cigarettes.

The conspirators sold off the cigarettes for cash to various black market vendors, according to prosecutors.

A grand jury indicted 10 people thought to be involved in the scheme in November 2015. The seven sentenced Wednesday all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and aggravated identity theft, according to U.S. Attorney John Stuart Bruce. They were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle in Raleigh.

The seven are:

▪ Tendai Munyaradzi Makoni, 34, of Durham, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

▪ Momar Talla Ndir, 32, of Raleigh; three years and six months.

▪ Dabed Del Jesus Sanchez, 22, of Raleigh, three years and six months.

▪ Joseph Daren Holcomb, 43, of Charlotte, two years and 10 months.

▪ Aaron Kent Davis, 23, of Raleigh, seven years.

▪ Mark Tony Evans, 28, New York, two years and six months.

Another Raleigh man, Pa Ambrose Mendy, 31, was convicted in September 2016 and sentenced to two years and six months behind bars on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, aggravated identity theft, trafficking in counterfeit access devices and aiding and abetting, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Thomasi McDonald: 919-829-4533, @thomcdonald