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Federal investigation includes former pro wrestler's smoke house

Federal authorities investigate a mountain business for possibly trafficking cigarettes while evading taxes. Rick Youngblood's smoke shop is owned by a former pro wrestler who's now grappling with a federal probe into his business dealings. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

CHEROKEE, N.C. -- Federal authorities investigate a mountain business for possibly trafficking cigarettes while evading taxes.

Rick Youngblood's smoke shop is owned by a former pro wrestler who's now grappling with a federal probe into his business dealings.

The Cherokee entrepreneur is mentioned in an application for a search warrant.

Macon Pleasants grew up a fan and has been a customer for years.

"He was famous for a move," Pleasants recalls. "I can't remember what move he had, but he would pick them up, and body slam them. I remember that when I was a kid."

Owner Rick Bird, better known as Rick Youngblood, is part of an investigation launched by Homeland Security Investigations.

Special agent Sean Walton requested a search warrant. The agent's looking into whether contraband tobacco's been shipped out of state by Bird without paying federal or state taxes.

Cherokee visitor Kirk Daniel of Michigan thinks it's a common crime across the country.

"If they're selling to a different state, I know from my state that'd be illegal," he says. "There's a stamp on the bottom that would say it's from Michigan. And if you sold it to Ohio or North Carolina, that's bootlegging.

According to documents obtained by News 13, an associate told investigators that Bird receives 100 cases of untaxed Marlboro cigarettes per month.

Pleasants says he'd be surprised if his wrestling hero were connected to something criminal.

"I personally like to shop at his stores here cause they're cheap, and I used to watch him as a wrestler," he says.

Investigators hope the warrant leads to information about an email account that could hold more answers about who's involved.

News 13 attempted to reach Rick Bird for comment but he did not respond.

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