Friday, July 24, 2009 at 9:57 a.m.
A few weeks ago, New Times brought you the story of our own black-market cigarette king, Roman Vidal.
The feds accused the gray-haired Cutler Bay resident of funneling millions of illegal smokes through the Port of Miami to England and Ireland. Worse, investigators say Vidal's profits went to a group connected to the Real IRA, an Irish terrorist front that murdered two British soldiers in cold blood back in March.
Vidal initially pleaded not guilty to four felony charges of smuggling and fraud. But it looks like that's going to change.
This morning, U.S. Judge Alan Gold filed a hearing set for August 14 for Vidal to change his plea. Vidal's public defender, Paul Korchin, hasn't responded to a phone call and an email message from Riptide.
Even if Vidal pleads guilty to all four counts at the hearing, he won't face any charges related to his links to the Real IRA. As we reported
, it's nearly impossible to prosecute smugglers such as Vidal for funding terrorist groups.
What's more, Florida's cigarette tax jumped by 300 percent a few weeks ago. Anyone want to bet a pack of Lucky Strikes that Roman Vidal isn't the last cigarette smuggler in South Florida?