By HERBERT G. MCCANN | ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
A lawyer was sentenced Wednesday to more than three years in federal prison for smuggling thousands of fine Cuban cigars into this country and selling them for a fat profit.
Richard “Mick” Connors, 54, was also fined $60,000 and placed on three years’ probation.
U.S. District Judge Ronald A. Guzman ordered Connors taken into custody immediately, despite a request that he be allowed to attend his daughter’s wedding later this month. The judge said the former public defender is too familiar with ways to flee the country.
Connors was convicted in 2002 of smuggling, trading with the enemy, conspiracy and lying to a passport officer.
Cuba has been under a U.S. trade embargo since the early 1960s.
Witnesses testified that in the early 1990s, as the cigar fad was building in the United States, Connors traveled to the communist island by way of Canada and Mexico almost monthly, bought cigars at $25 to $60 a box and sold them in the United States for up to $400 a box. He was arrested at the Canadian border in 1996 with 1,150 cigars.
U.S. citizens must have permission to visit Cuba. Authorized visitors may bring back $100 worth of goods including cigars for their own use but may not resell them in this country.
Connors plans to appeal, said his attorney, Jack Cutrone.
Cuba is famous for its fine cigars. Before signing the 1962 embargo, President Kennedy is said to have sent press secretary Pierre Salinger out to scour Washington for as many of his favorite Cuban cigars as he could find.
Many Cuban cigars are brought into the United States every year in small quantities by individuals who are not part of any smuggling rings.