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Jury indicts Port Charlotte man accused of smuggling Cuban cigars

The discovery of more than 28,000 Cuban cigars and 42 bottles of Cuban rum landed a Port Charlotte man in federal court this week.

Douglas Hiner, 68, charged with importing illegal Cuban merchandise and conspiracy to do the same, was indicted Wednesday and appeared in federal court Thursday.

He was released on a $50,000 bond.

"It's kind of crazy," Hiner said Friday, "that Cuban cigars are of such importance to Immigration and Customs Enforcement."

He then referred calls to his attorney, Assistant U.S. Public Defender Russell Rosenthal.

On May 13, the United States Coast Guard and Customs and Border Patrol Marine Interdiction agents intercepted a 53-foot sailboat in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties that was carrying 361 Cuban cigars and cigarettes, according to a U.S. Attorney's Office press release.

During the investigation, agents found a North Fort Myers storage facility in which Hiner allegedly stored the cigars and rum, according to the press release.

"This isn't someone coming back with a box of Cohibas," said Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Molloy.

"We don't go after people unless they're making a lot of money."

Molloy said an investigation shows Hiner wasn't selling the cigars in this area. Cuban exports are illegal in the United States because of the country's trade embargo with the communist country.

In a separate indictment earlier this year, Martin Sengseis, 43, was indicted on a charge of importing Cuban cigars and rum. Also indicted was John Genaro, but charges against him were dropped by prosecutors.

On Feb. 21, 2008, according to a federal complaint, Sengseis and Genaro were aboard a 51-foot sail boat that ran aground near Fort Myers Beach.

When Coast Guard agents searched the boat, they found 364 boxes of Cuban cigars, 45 bottles of Cuban rum, 30 pounds of Cuban coffee and 100 cartons of Cuban cigarettes, according to court documents.

In both cases, the men allegedly traveled from Havana, Cuba to Florida's west coast.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Source: The News-Press

Jury indicts Port Charlotte man accused of smuggling Cuban cigars