Knoxville men plead guilty in contraband cigarette case

A pair of Knoxville men pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Knoxville to federal charges of conspiracy to transport contraband cigarettes, among other charges.

According to a release from Eastern District of Tennessee U.S. Attorney’s Office, Iqbal Hussain Bhimani, 55, and Abdul Karim Bhimani, 40, both of Knoxville, were the subjects of a long-term undercover investigation by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, which was looking into cigarette smuggling by convenience store owners in East Tennessee and elsewhere.

The Bhimanis operated Wholesale Outlet, 1800 E. Magnolia Ave., Knoxville, at the time of the charges. They ended up pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to transport, possess and distribute contraband cigarettes. Each faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years supervised release and forfeiture of illicit proceeds.

The pair is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan on Sept. 30 in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

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