Tobacco smugglers targeted by Cuomo's 'Cigarette Strike Force,' more than $6 million in contraband seized
Tuesday, December 26, 2017 - 5:36 pm

New York State's “Cigarette Strike Force” seized $6.6 million worth of contraband tobacco so far this year, a $1 million increase compared with last year's total, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Untaxed cigars made up the bulk of these confiscations, according to the governor’s office. Investigators seized more than 1.5 million illegal cigars so far this year compared with 260,000 last year, a 476 percent increase. More than 47,000 cartons of untaxed cigarettes have been seized along with 134,000 counterfeit tax stamps and nearly $445,000 in cash, Cuomo’s office said.

This year, “Cigarette Strike Force” investigators also arrested 85 accused cigarette and tobacco smugglers who face more than $7 million in fines, Cuomo said.

In 2014, Cuomo directed the Tax Department to create a “Cigarette Strike Force” to stem illegal tobacco trafficking and sales. In October, the Tax Department announced that it joined forces with the Gaming Commission, which oversees lottery ticket sales, and the State Liquor Authority in an initiative to further reduce sales of contraband cigarettes, Cuomo’s office said.

Under the policy, a tobacco-licensed retailer found to be in possession of untaxed cigars or cigarettes will face “immediate enforcement action,” leading to the possible suspension or revocation of licenses to sell tobacco, alcohol, and lottery tickets.

There are approximately 21,000 licensed retailers selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in New York state, according to Cuomo’s office.