A pair of New Orleans police officers pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday, admitting they were paid thousands of dollars to haul more than 13,000 cartons of contraband smokes on two trips early last year to North Carolina.
Officers Justin Brown, 30, and Joshua Carthon, 32, each face a maximum five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to interstate transportation in aid of racketeering.
Also pleading guilty Wednesday was Anwar "Tony" Abdelmajid-Ahmad, 29, an employee of Louisa Xpress in New Orleans who was accused of purchasing the illegal smokes — Seneca and Marlboro cigarettes and Natural Goodies and Swisher Sweets cigars — from a confidential FBI source.
A federal grand jury has charged six people, including three New Orleans law enforcement off…
NOPD spokesman Beau Tidwell said Brown and Carthon resigned from the force following their guilty pleas Wednesday. They had been on emergency suspension without pay since they were indicted in September.
The indictment accused the three men and three co-defendants in a scheme to smuggle the cigarettes across state lines to evade state and federal excise taxes.
Brown, Carthon and another law enforcement officer, Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office Deputy Garrett Partman, were accused of providing paid protection for the cigarettes and driving them by U-Haul truck to Wilmington, North Carolina.
Brown and Carthon admitted they were paid $4,000 each for the first trip, in January 2016, and an additional $2,000 each for the return drive after the buyer, Atalla Atalla, turned away 5,000 cartons of Seneca cigarettes because they were marked "duty free, not for sale in USA."
According to his admission Wednesday, Brown got skittish about the next trip, in March 2016, and enlisted Partman, who drove a U-Haul with Carthon while Brown and Abdelmajid-Ahmad rode in a separate vehicle.
Police shot one man dead and arrested two brothers after responding to an armed robbery at a…
Partman, Atalla and another alleged cigarette dealer, Jadallah Saed, remain as defendants in the federal case, with a trial scheduled for August.
Abdelmajid-Ahmad pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes, conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, and federal firearms violations. He faces 10 years to life on the drug conspiracy count.
Partman was a six-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office when he resigned following his indictment.
Brown had been with the department for four years and most recently was assigned to the Special Operations Division.
Carthon, a seven-year NOPD veteran, had served in the 7th District, which covers New Orleans East. He previously was suspended for 25 days following an April 2014 drunk-driving incident in which he crashed his pickup while driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.131 percent.
Carthon was involved in a fatal officer-involved shooting following an armed robbery in 2015. Authorities deemed the shooting to be justified.
U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt set sentencing for Brown, Carthon and Abdelmajid-Ahmad for Aug. 2.