Raleigh man sentenced to federal prison over cigarette trafficking scheme

A Raleigh man will spend seven years in federal prison after being convicted of using stolen credit card numbers to buy relatively cheap cigarettes in North Carolina and resell them at higher prices in New York.

Saiku Gando Barrie, 28, was convicted of aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit access device fraud. Federal prosecutors say he and other co-conspirators acquired stolen credit card data that they then encoded onto the magnetic strips of what appeared to be legitimate gift cards.

The cards were then used by “runners” to buy cigarettes at stores around North Carolina and returned to the scheme’s managers, including Barrie, who would periodically take the cigarettes to New York to be sold on the black market, prosecutors say.

North Carolina has one of the lowest excise taxes on cigarettes, at 45 cents per pack, while New York’s is the highest, at $4.35. The combined state and local taxes on a pack of cigarettes in New York City is $5.85 per pack, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a national nonprofit advocacy group.

Barrie was one of seven people arrested in Raleigh in December 2011 and charged with possessing machinery that allowed them to produce phony credit cards. He was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III in Raleigh to seven years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.