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Four charged after cigarettes, tobacco seized from Dakota Plains smoke shop

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Four people face a long list of charges following a massive contraband tobacco seizure by a joint police operation last week.

On Jan 22, members of the RCMP serious and organized crime unit, the Portage la Prairie RCMP, the Dakota Ojibway Police Service, and Manitoba Finance taxation officials snuffed out the illegal tobacco at a smoke shop in Dakota Plains First Nation.

An execution of the search warrant at the shop and property was performed, and police seized 4,800 cartons of cigarettes, which amounted to 951,225 cigarettes. Over 1,840 tins of chewing tobacco, six firearms, one vehicle and an unspecified amount of cash were also seized.

Police arrested Matthew Audi, 26, and Christopher Wilkins, 30, both of Quebec, after they had made a delivery of contraband tobacco to the smoke shop.

Craig Blacksmith, the owner of the shop, was arrested a short while later. The 51-year-old has a history of butting heads with authorities and with residents in Dakota Plains First Nation over contraband tobacco and the sale of cigarettes on the reserve.

A fourth person, Tammy Walters, 42, was also arrested. She was the lone employee in the shop.

All four face numerous tobacco-related charges. Blacksmith is also looking at several firearms offences, as well. The four suspects are scheduled to appear in a Winnipeg court May 12.

All told, finance officials calculated $292,572.68 of total tax was avoided. If convicted, each individual can face a tax penalty of triple that amount, a total of $877,718.04 per person.

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