Disbarment Over Cuban Cigars: IL Attorney Smuggled Smokes in the 90s

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on August 16, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Cuban cigars are still illegal in the U.S. and smuggling them can get you a hefty punishment. If you're an attorney, they could get your disbarred.

Illinois' Bar Association recommended just that for Richard Connors, a Chicago lawyer who was convicted of smuggling Cuban cigars into the U.S.

Generally smuggling violates laws against drug trafficking. But in this case Connors broke a lesser known statute.

He was convicted of violating the Trading with the Enemy Act, according to the ABA Journal. He was also convicted of making false statements on a passport application.

That's right, fraternizing with the enemy is still a federal offense if the enemy is Cuba. At least now you can go visit.

To add insult to injury, Connors was turned in by his ex-wife.

She tipped off authorities to his activities, including 31 trips to Cuba between 1996 and 1999. They then stopped him at the Canadian border and found 46 boxes of cigars in his trunk.

Hard to argue that those are all for personal use.

The court empathized with Connors over his treacherous ex. But that wasn't enough to excuse his crimes. With those convictions comes the opportunity for professional sanctions

The problem for the Illinois Bar Association is that Connors' convictions are for crimes of moral turpitude and reflect poorly on his integrity. After all, 'conduct unbecoming of an attorney' is grounds for sanction under most state Bar Association rules.

Connors has not yet been disbarred but Bar authorities have pressed for it. That may be in part due to his prior one-year suspension for unrelated misconduct, as reported by the Legal Profession Blog.

Now we're curious about what that prior suspension was about.

The lesson here? Buy American-made premium cigars rather than Cubans if you want a celebratory smoke. After all, enjoying a cigar itself won't lead to disbarment.

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