UNDERCOVER IN BRISTOL, VA: 2 tobacco sellers embroiled in Bristol ATF operation

From: Bristol Herald Courier


For seven years, an old candy factory in Bristol was the hub of wide-ranging operations for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, largely thanks to the undercover work of two “regular” tobacco salesmen: Jason Carpenter and Chris Small.


The New York Times broke the story about the Bristol-based operations in 2017 and intervened in a related $24 million lawsuit, in which Carpenter and Small are defendants, to unseal records related to it. But the two men haven’t talked to the news media about the lawsuit until now — speaking exclusively to the Bristol Herald Courier.


A significant ruling came in the litigation this month, too — five years after the lawsuit was filed.


BRISTOL, Va. — In the spring of 2009, the federal government implemented its largest-ever tax hike for cigarettes to fund a children’s health insurance program. But Roberto Ribiero, president of Miami-based manufacturer Belcorp, had a plan. According to records, he and employees hid more than 1,000 cases of cigarettes in an unlicensed warehouse in Tennessee, owned by two tobacco distributors: Jason Carpenter, now 47, and Chris Small, 43.

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