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Posted: Thursday, June 15, 2000

Man pleads innocent in cigarette tax case

JUNEAU -- Ketchikan resident Reynaldo Pingul was arraigned before Judge Larry Weeks Wednesday afternoon in Juneau Superior Court.

Pingul, 55, is charged with failure to pay cigarette tax. The maximum penalty is five years in jail and a $50,000 fine, Weeks said.

Pingul, 55, and his lawyer, Bryan T. Schulz, appeared telephonically from Ketchikan. Schulz entered a plea of innocent on Pingul's behalf.

A 15-year Alaska Marine Highway System employee, Pingul was employed as chief steward of the ferry Columbia. He is accused of abusing his official shipboard status by placing personal orders for cigarettes and alcohol. These actions, which allegedly took place between July 1998 and March 2000, cost the state almost $23,000 in taxes and penalties, officials said.

Weeks said Pingul could apply to the Ketchikan public defender's office for representation. Pingul noted he was recently divorced, had $200 in savings, and had been unemployed since May 10.

Weeks set the trial for Sept. 25.

Weeks released Pingul on his own recognizance on condition that he violate no laws and make all future court appearances in person unless otherwise approved by his lawyer.

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