Four persons standing trial for evading cigarette taxes in Pierce County Superior Court changed their pleas to guilty yesterday.
The state Attorney General’s office had alleged that the operators of Indian County Store (and Smoke Shop) along River Road between Tacoma and Puyallup avoided paying as much as $500,000 in taxes just in the case being prosecuted.
Defendants imported hundreds of thousands of cigarettes from other states or tribal reservations, then sold them at their smoke shop without paying required taxes. At the start of the trial last week, two additional co-defendants also entered guilty please.
Admitting their individual parts in the scheme during the trial were Robert Comenout Sr., Robert Comenout Jr., Lee Comenout Sr., and Marlene Comenout.
Multiple searches have been executed at Indian Country Smoke Shop over the years by various agencies. The raid that brought this week’s trial started when Federal Way police uncovered more than $500,000 in cash during an unrelated search of a home there.
The most recent raid at the now-closed ICSS found roughly $2 million in cash and assets, plus 15,824 cartons of contraband cigarettes. All state, local and federal agencies that participated in the investigation will likely receive a share of the seized proceeds.
Sentencing of all defendants is scheduled for May 13.