Prosecutors: State lawmaker planned to profit from tax hike

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Even as a Tennessee lawmaker campaigned to pass a hefty increase in the state’s cigarette tax, federal prosecutors say he was putting together an elaborate scheme to enrich himself off the hike.

But longtime state Democratic Rep. Joe Armstrong of Knoxville isn’t on trial in federal court in his hometown this week for the money he made – more than $300,000, prosecutors said in their opening statements Tuesday.

Rather, he’s accused of failing to pay taxes on profits gained from a plan to buy tax stamps at the old rate and sell them at a higher one.

Prosecutors told the jury that political considerations caused Armstrong, who was then the chairman of the House Health Committee, to try to conceal his role and to evade his taxes.

Armstrong’s attorney argued that the lawmaker was the victim of a dishonest accountant.