CRA Board Members

Board members support CRA members and all facets of the cigar industry

Board Members
Gary Pesh CRA Team

Gary Pesh

Chairman Of Cigar Rights of America
Owner of Old Virginia Tobacco Company

Gary Pesh has been involved in the tobacco business for over 40 years. He began working alongside his father at the family business, Tobacco Barns, in 1980. Pesh grew the business from three stores to seven and oversaw the name change to Old Virginia Tobacco Co. He currently serves as president of the multi store retail chain.

In addition to being a former city councilman in Roundhill, VA, Pesh has served on multiple boards for over 15 years, including IPCPR (now the Premium Cigar Association) where he rose to be its president. Pesh has been an active member of the board of Cigar Rights of America since 2009. He was elected chairman in 2021.

Karen Smith CRA Team

Karen Smith

President of CigaR Rights Of America
Vice President of Arturo Fuente Cigars

Karen has been with Arturo Fuente since 2006, and was part of Fuente’s outside legal team for over 15 years prior to that. As Vice President, Karen has responsibilities across all aspects of Fuente’s global operations.

Cory Bappert Oliva Cigar CEO

Cory Bappert

Vice President Of Cigar Rights of America
CEO of Oliva Cigar

With over 16 years in the cigar industry, Cory Bappert is CEO of Oliva Cigars. He joined Oliva Cigars in 2006 as Vice President of Sales. He is proud to be serving as Vice President of Cigar Rights of America.

Drew Newman CRA Team

Drew Newman

SecretarY Of Cigar Rights Of America 
General Counsel of J. C. Newman Cigar Company

J.C. Newman Cigar Company is the oldest family-owned premium cigar manufacturer in America. A fourth-generation cigar maker, Drew continues a 126-year-old tradition that his great-grandfather started in 1895.  Before joining the family business full time, Drew served as the Chief of Staff of a national nonprofit based in New York City and as a Legislative Director at the Council of the District of Columbia. After law school, Drew was a judicial law clerk at the D.C. Court of Appeals. Drew holds a Bachelor of Arts from Williams College, a Juris Doctor from American University, and a Master of Public Policy from Princeton University.

Carlos Fuente Jr.

Carlito Fuente

Owner, A. Fuente Cigars

Carlos P. Fuente (“Carlito”) is the President of Tabacalera A. Fuente. Like his father, Don Carlos, he has been in the cigar business his entire life. Together with his father, Carlito manages all aspects of the worldwide Fuente cigar manufacturing and distribution businesses. He divides his time between the Fuente cigar factories in Dominican Republic and traveling throughout the world representing the Fuente Companies.

Pete Johnson

Pete Johnson

Owner, Tatuaje Cigars Inc | Havana Cellars

At 22 years of age, Pete Johnson entered the tobacco industry in 1993 working retail in Los Angeles, California. In 1997 Pete was hired on as the Director of Retail for Grand Havana Enterprises, the parent company of the famed Grand Havana Room. It was there that his affinity for cigars grew into a passion and in 2003 he started his own cigar line aptly named Tatuaje, Spanish for “tattoo.” The blend, which was brought to life by Jose “Pepin” Garcia of My Father Cigars, was an instant hit and launched Pete and the brand into the spotlight. 

Jorge Padron

Jorge Padrón

Owner, Padrón Cigar Company

Jorge Padrón has been surrounded by tobacco his entire life. As a child, he spent his summer vacations working for the family business, Padrón Cigars Inc., learning the art of cigar making and tobacco processing at the side of his father, chairman Jose Orlando Padrón. He has spent more than seven years as president of the Miami company, and today the 35-year-old is taking a more active role in the business. In June, senior editor David Savona traveled to Nicaragua to meet Padrón the week he opened the company’s new, larger factory in Esteli, the small, agricultural town where most of Nicaragua’s cigars are made.

CRA Board Member Photos Sathya Levin

Sathya Levin

CEO, ASHTON Cigars

Sathya Levin is proud to serve on the Cigar Rights of America board. He also leads Ashton Cigars, a father-and-son operation headed by Sathya with his father Robert Levin. Together, they preserve and build on the Ashton Cigar company’s extensive reputation for creating premium cigars of superior quality and lasting prestige. 

Rocky Patel

Rocky Patel

Owner, Rocky Patel Cigars

It was the mid-1990s when the premium cigar market was drastically changing. Rocky Patel lived and worked in Los Angeles as an entertainment and product liability lawyer. Through a friend, Rocky was introduced to cigars and was instantly fascinated by them. He then became one of the original founding members of the Grand Havana Club in Los Angeles. While dabbling in various investment ventures, Rocky was approached with a business plan to manufacture cigars. The finished product flourished on the market.

Alan Ruben

Alan Rubin

Founder, Alec Bradley Cigar Company

In 1996, Alan Rubin was charting a new course in his life. Having sold the family import business, he wanted to create a company dedicated to his passion: cigars. Alan sought to bring the handcrafted tradition to the market without losing any attention to detail. To oversee daily operations he brought in Ralph Montero, who is currently executive vice president. A partnership with Henke Kelner produced Occidental Reserve, Alec Bradley’s entrance into the premium cigar market. The product line responded with Trilogy, a triangle press, and Maxx, which offered a 60 ring gauge at an accessible price point.

Directors Emeriti
Carlos Fuente Senior

Carlos Fuente, Sr.

Former Owner, A. Fuente Cigars

From a humble beginning in Ybor City, Florida, making cigars from his parents' home, Fuente Sr. built Fuente into an international powerhouse, with its cigars known and revered the world over. His company today makes more than 30 million cigars a year in Santiago, Dominican Republic, all of them by hand. Carlos was in the cigar business his entire life. Together with his son, Carlito, he managed all aspects of the worldwide Fuente cigar manufacturing businesses. 

Robert Levin

Robert Levin

Owner, Ashton Distributors

While he’s best known for creating the Ashton brands, Robert Levin, President of Holt’s Cigar Holdings, is a 30-year veteran of the cigar business with experience in retailing and wholesaling. After a humble start, sweeping the floor of his father’s Philadelphia cigar store, he took over the family business in the 1970s, then created the original Ashton in the 1980s. His cigar grew up to be an industry giant, and in 1999 he trumped his earlier success with the addition of the Ashton Virgin Sun Grown line.

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