Businessman pleads guilty in cigarette tax case

A Florida tobacco distributor long watched by federal investigators has pleaded guilty to money laundering and conspiracy in a scheme to avoid paying taxes owed on online cigarette sales in Kentucky.

Pedro "Peter" Bello became the second person to admit to plotting to use phony invoices to avoid paying taxes on millions of dollars' worth of cigarettes. Bello entered the plea Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Louisville.

A co-conspirator, 48-year-old Israel Chavez of Louisville, pleaded guilty earlier this month.

Bello's attorney and federal prosecutors say the deal will spare Bello legal troubles in Mississippi, where the U.S. attorney was considering presenting a case to a grand jury.

Prosecutors say Bello, Chavez and others routed invoices for cigarette sales through companies in other states to avoid paying Kentucky taxes.

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