NY county DA considering prosecuting Indian smoke shops despite state court decision

New York’s highest court recently ruled that Cayuga and Seneca counties could not prosecute the Cayuga Indian Nation for selling untaxed cigarettes at its LakeSide Trading stores yet Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann said he still intends to pursue criminal charges against the Nation.

“My reading (of the decision) is that we can’t prosecute them for failing to collect sales tax on the cigarettes they sell to consumers….I’m trying to prosecute them for possessing untaxed cigarettes with the intent to sell them to non-Indians,’’ Budelmann said last week.

Budelmann’s plan elicited a sharp response from the Cayugas’ lawyer and it also seems to contradict the reaction of Rochester lawyer Philip Spellane, who represents both counties in the civil side of the dispute.

In its ruling, the court said the Cayugas can not be prosecuted for tax evasion because the state does not have a system for its Indian retailers to collect taxes on cigarettes sold to non-Indians.

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