Friday, November 28, 2008

County Officials Raid Cayuga Indian Smoke Shops In New York

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Deputies seized cigarettes from Cayuga Indian smoke shops in New York's Cayuga County and Seneca County

The deputies said they took the action last Tuesday because the Tribe wasn't paying state taxes on cigarette sales. A total of almost 18,000 cartons of cigarettes were confiscated. Based on excise taxes of $27.50 per carton, the total sales tax revenue would have been close to a half-million dollars.

Indian tribes in New York do not pay sales taxes but state officials have said they may change that because of the state's financial situation.

According to Seneca District Attorney Richard Swinehart, "This is as simple as a case can be. It is illegal to possess (untaxed) cigarettes. They possessed them."

The two counties asked the state police and the state's taxation department to help them in the raid but those agencies declined to take action. The state police was said to have offered backup service. The state has not forced the Indian tribes to pay sales taxes on its cigarette sales.

Swinehart said the counties had the right to seize the cigarettes because the Cayugas don't own any sovereign .and in either county. He cited a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said Indian tribes could not claim sovereignty on land not taken into trust as reservation land.