The state Department of Taxation and Finance is partnering with 12 federal and local law enforcement agencies to crack down on illegal tobacco trafficking and sales, but without the help of St. Lawrence County.
The multi-agency effort is composed of state, local and federal agencies dedicated to stopping the influx of counterfeit and untaxed tobacco products into New York. It also focuses on tracing any illicit financial earnings from that criminal activity.
But in spite of the history of tobacco smuggling across the St. Lawrence River, the announcement of the effort does not mention any participation by St. Lawrence County law enforcement personnel.
The county will also not share in any of the proceeds from seized assets, which will be shared among the agencies participating.
The agencies in the crackdown include:
· New York State Department of Taxation and Finance
· United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
· United State Custom and Border Protection
· United States Department of Homeland Security
· United States Food and Drug Administration
· New York County District Attorney’s Office
· Richmond County District Attorney’s Office
· Rockland County District Attorney’s Office
· Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Department
· Erie County Sheriff’s Department
· New York City Sheriff’s Office
· Niagara County Sheriff’s Office
· Suffolk County Police Department
“This new law enforcement strategy will help to crack down on these illegal cigarette sales and capture those smugglers who seek to evade the law and rob the state of the revenue it is rightly owed, thereby putting an additional burden on law-abiding taxpayers,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in the announcement. “Would-be traffickers are now on notice: They will be caught and they will be brought to justice.”
By combining resources, the members of the “strike force” will be able to improve their database of crime-related intelligence and share critical information as the team works to disrupt and dismantle major trafficking organizations, according to the announcement.
The current tax on a pack of 20 cigarettes in New York State is $4.35; in New York City there is an additional $1.50 in tax added to the $4.35. The penalty for possession of unstamped cigarettes is $600 per carton and possible criminal charges.
“This seasoned team will take a multi-pronged approach to cigarette tax enforcement,” said Risa Sugarman, Deputy Commissioner of Criminal Enforcement for the Tax Department. “In addition to targeting the trafficking itself, we will use our intelligence centers and audit powers to trace financing activities and stop the criminal organizations at the roots of the crimes.”