A member of the St. Regis Mohawk tribe admitted Thursday to possessing contraband cigarettes headed for a Seneca Nation distributor.
Ian Tarbell, 44, was arrested in Pembroke in February of last year after a search of his U-Haul truck by Genesee County Sheriff’s deputies resulted in the seizure of 900,000 unpackaged, untaxed cigarettes.
Tarbell, who was scheduled to go on trial, on Thursday pleaded guilty to possessing contraband cigarettes. He will face a recommended sentence of up to 30 months in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Ricard J. Arcara.
Until the plea deal was reached, Tarbell’s lawyer said his client’s transport of cigarettes from the St. Regis reservation to the Seneca reservation was a longstanding practice protected by law.
Defense attorney Michael Rhodes-Devey of Delmar declined to comment when contacted Thursday.
Tarbell's guilty plea is the result of a prosecution by Assistant U.S Attorney Russell T. Ippolito Jr. and an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.