August 11, 2010 - A Seneca Nation businessman who is challenging a federal law that makes it illegal to ship cigarettes through the mail called the seizure of thousands of cartons of his cigarettes from a delivery truck "clear retaliation" for his lawsuit.
The cigarettes were seized Monday the day before lawyers for Aaron Pierce and 140 members of the Seneca Free Trade Association were due in U.S. District Court in Buffalo to continue their challenge to the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act).
U.S. Federal Court - appeal of judges split decision regarding PACT Act..;State tax agents pulled over the truck owned by Pierce's AJ's Wholesale LLC of Irving as it was making deliveries between Seneca reservations in western New York. Taxation and Finance spokesman Brad Maione confirmed cigarettes were seized because they did not bear state tax stamps as required by law. The cigarettes were on state property between the Cattaraugus and Allegany reservations when the seizure took place, he said.
Seneca Indians - split ruling from NY judge on cigarette regulation..;
Seneca Nation - judge extends temporary reprieve from law to block mail delivery off cigarettes until July 30th..;
New York state says it will return a truck full of untaxed cigarettes that was seized by taxing agents as it made deliveries between two Seneca Indian Nation reservations. State Taxation and Finance spokesman Brad Maione said Wednesday that while Monday's stop and seizure were legal, a review of the facts led to the decision to return Seneca businessman Aaron Pierce's truck and its contents. Maione did not elaborate. (NY to return seized Native American cigarettes, Associated Press, 8/11/2010)Maione declined to comment Tuesday on Pierce's claim of retaliation or to release more information. He said an investigation was ongoing.
Lawyers were in U.S. District Court in Buffalo on Tuesday afternoon for a hearing on the new law that prohibits cigarette sellers from delivering tobacco by mail and requires them to comply with taxing regulations in the locations where they do business.
The Seneca businesses asked a judge to stop the government from enforcing the PACT Act while they appeal a recent court ruling that upheld the mail ban while putting a hold on the taxation provisions.
That split ruling also is being appealed by the government, whose lawyers argue that sellers should have to comply with laws in the areas where their products are delivered.
Seneca-owned businesses in western New York dominate the mail-order cigarette market.
Pierce said agents who conducted the seizure in the Cattaraugus County town of Dayton on Monday left his driver and boxes of melting candy along the side of the road. "This outrageous seizure is clear retaliation for my company's litigation in federal court," he said.
The issue of taxing cigarette sales has caused conflict between the state and its Indian nations for decades. Collecting taxes from cigarettes sold on reservations has been a long-sought source of revenue for the state and is opposed by the state's American Indian tribes. Enforcement would begin September 1, 2010. (New York State - state democrats insist governor tax cigarettes sold on Indian reservations..; NY State Governor Patterson - part of budget - collect Indian cigarette taxes..; NYC - wins round in fight against Indian Tobacco Vendors..)
Reference: Cigarettes seized between NY Indian reservations, © 2010 The Associated Press, 8/10/2010.