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New Mexico man latest to plead guilty in cigarette conspiracy

SEATTLE — A tobacco distributor from New Mexico pled guilty Jan. 6 for his role in a scheme to sell contraband cigarettes to an Arlington smoke shop.

According to a release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Matthew M. Cunningham admitted in his plea agreement that he was part of a conspiracy with the owners of the Arlington-based Blue Stilly Smoke Shop and Cowlitz Candy & Tobacco to ship more than one million cartons of untaxed cigarettes to the Snohomish County smoke shop.

Cunningham, who pled guilty to conspiracy to traffic contraband cigarettes and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, was indicted in September 2009.

Cunningham is scheduled to be sentenced by a U.S. District Judge on April 16.

Conspirators allegedly took steps to avoid paying more than $20 million in cigarette taxes.

Cunningham's company, MRC Enterprises LLC, was reimbursed for shipping the contraband cigarettes through a Clackamas, Ore., warehouse, and the company was paid an additional $500 per shipment, according to the release.

Cunningham joins a growing list of allegedly involved conspirators who have either been sentenced, pled guilty or are scheduled for trial.

Robert Stuber, who owned Cowlitz Candy & Tobacco, was sentenced in December 2009 to nine months in prison.

In February 2009, Stuber pled guilty to money-laundering and conspiracy charges.

Three former Stillaguamish Tribal members Eddie Goodridge Jr., his father Edward Goodridge and Sara Lee Schroedl were sentenced to prison terms for their roles in the conspiracy.

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