TUPELO, Miss. — Daniel McMullen, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI in Mississippi, Felicia C. Adams, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi, and Dennis J. Erby, United States Marshal for the Northern District of Mississippi, announced today that a warehouse and office facility located at 120 Franklin Street in Tupelo, Mississippi, formerly owned by Globe Distributing and used as its warehouse and office facility, has officially been transferred to the City of Tupelo.
The property, a 100,000-square-foot warehouse, was forfeited as the result of an investigation into a nationwide network of retailers, wholesalers, distributors, importers, and manufacturers, who were avoiding cigarette taxes in order to make millions of dollars in profits.
Tupelo officials say they plan to tear down the building and hope to build a much-needed new police headquarters on the site. They say the old building is functional to be converted into police offices.
The FBI investigation, code named, “Operation Secondhand Smoke,” was a collaborative effort between the FBI and other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in Mississippi and several other states. During the course of this multi-state investigation, millions of dollars in cigarettes, property, and cash were seized.
The fact that the warehouse was used in the scheme to illegally avoid the payment of taxes on contraband cigarettes and also to store contraband cigarettes made it eligible for seizure under the forfeiture laws. Through the Federal Equitable Sharing Program, assets forfeited in federal cases can be shared with state and local law enforcement partners, to be used for law enforcement purposes. Because the Tupelo Police Department played an active and significant role in the investigation from the beginning, the warehouse is being transferred to the City of Tupelo.
United States Marshal Dennis J. Erby said, “The United States Marshals Service (USMS) has the responsibility of distributing forfeited assets to participating federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. This process is known as Equitable Sharing and is managed by the USMS Asset Forfeiture program. Aside from the financial benefits, this program enables agencies to better serve and protect our communities. We are proud to be a part of the Equitable Sharing process.”
Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton said, “Last week, I delivered the deed to this property from the federal government to the City of Tupelo. Because of the hard work put forth by the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, and other federal entities which partnered with the Tupelo Police Department and other local enforcement to suppress unlawful activity at this location, we look for this to be the future home of the City of Tupelo Police Headquarters.”
Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed, Jr. stated, “Thanks to the great work of the Tupelo Police Department in cooperating with the federal authorities, the City is proud to accept the old Milam Manufacturing Building. We will raze it, and on that property will build a new Police Headquarters to serve and protect citizens for many years to come.”
SAC McMullen added, “The transfer of this property to the City of Tupelo is a perfect example of how our Asset Forfeiture Program contributes to the betterment of our communities. Through this Program, property once used to further criminal activities to the detriment of the public good, will now be used to deter criminal behavior for the benefit of the citizens of Tupelo.”
United States Attorney Adams concluded, “I am very pleased that this major criminal prosecution, which brought down a nationwide network of cigarette retailers, wholesalers, distributors, and manufacturers who were illegally avoiding cigarette taxes, has resulted in the transfer of this property to the City of Tupelo. This property can now be used by the Tupelo Police Department for the benefit of the citizens of North Mississippi by enhancing our ability to fight crime and to keep our residents safe. I commend our prosecutors, as well as the many federal, state, and local law enforcement agents who have worked so hard to reach this milestone.”
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