Counties agree to fight contraband cigarette trafficking

Four New York county district attorneys announced an agreement to fight cigarette trafficking. The agreement was negotiated with Ohio-based R + L Carriers trucking company. St. Lawrence County, Franklin County, Chautauqua County and Suffolk County were the represented county governments.

An investigation by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance led to the agreement negotiations. The trucking company has agreed to refuse to ship cigarettes in New York that are not New York tax stamped. The company also agreed to pay $140,000 to the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society. The trucking company avoids any prosecution for past shipments. R + L Carriers denied any wrong-doing. The company accepted new compliance procedures suggested by New York State.

St. Lawrence County District Attorney Nicole Duve announced the agreement in Canton, New York. She is running for re-election this year. Duve said a black market exists in New York to avoid paying cigarette taxes. The agreement is also a warning to other trucking companies serving Indian Reservations, according to published reports. The investigation showed R + L Carriers transported unstamped cigarettes in or destined for New York from 2010 to September 2013.

“The investigation is ongoing and this agreement is with R + L Carriers in their role in the transportation of untaxed cigarettes,” D.A. Duve stated. “The investigation has led into a number of directions and this is not the only company that has surfaced during the course of this investigation.”

In 2012, two U.S. Border Protection Services random vehicle checkpoints in St. Lawrence County resulted in cigarette shipment seizures. New York State Police seized the loads of cigarette cartons there, which had been produced on the Akwesasne Territory. The unstamped cigarettes were owned by HCI Distribution of Omaha, Nebraska. HCI Distribution is a tribally-owned enterprise of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.

Suffolk County D.A. Thomas Spota commented on the agreement. “Traffickers sometimes claim that cigarettes are exempt from the laws if they are manufactured on a reservation, or are being delivered from one reservation to another. There is no basis in the law for such claims, and this agreement reflects that.”

James Calvin, President of the New York Association of Convenience Stores also commented on the agreement within the approved, official press release. “We applaud the initiative…in curtailing illegal shipment of untaxed cigarettes on New York Highways.”

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