A Palmetto Bay man who claims to be a cousin of retired Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant is being held at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami after being arrested on suspicion of trying to evade importation taxes on cigars.
Tony Bryant, 55, was charged with four felonies in connection with his cigar-import business. The feds accused him of fraudulently trying to evade paying $13 million in taxes on the Caribbean-produced smokes.
Vincent Duffy, Bryant’s attorney, declined comment when reached on his cellphone today. Duffy said he doesn’t know whether Bryant is really NBA star Kobe’s kin.
If found guilty, cigar dealer Bryant could be sentenced to 18 years in prison.
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According to federal court records in Virginia, Bryant was pinched last year for underpaying importation taxes on 52,000 cartons of cigarettes. Bryant pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in business unlawfully.
Bryant was placed on two years probation but allegedly continued to underpay on cigars imported mostly from the Dominican Republic by his Miami-based company, Havana ’59.
He is accused of falsifying importation documents between 2012 and 2016, allowing him to underpay the federal government by $13 million.
It’s not the first time Bryant has made news.
In 2003, Bryant provided a statement in the murder of Connecticut youth Martha Moxley that sought to exonerate Kennedy clan member Michael Skakel, the accused killer.
Bryant asserted that two ex-classmates from high school in the Bronx committed the murder, not Skakel.
Bryant could become a key witness if Skakel, who was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison before winning a new trial, goes back to court.