Posted: Wednesday, 11 August 2010 6:29PM
Rachel Kingston Reporting
Buffalo, NY (WBEN/AP) -- New York State is going to return a truck full of cigarettes that was seized by taxing agents on Monday to the Seneca retailer to whom it belongs.State Taxation and Finance Spokesman Brad Maione said Wednesday that Monday's stop and seizure was not illegal, but officials who've reviewed of the facts of the case have nontheless chosen to give the truck and its contents back to Aaron Pierce. Maione would not elaborate on what specifically led tax officials to change their minds.Agents who made the seizure on Monday said that they did so because the cigarette cartons weren't stamped properly. But the Senecas question that explanation, since taxation of Native American tobacco products is currently not permitted under New York State law.Pierce contends that the seizure is an act of retaliation. He and 140 other Seneca businesses have filed lawsuits against a new federal law, known as the PACT Act. It bans the shipment of cigarettes in the mail. The Senecas are currently trying to have it declared unconstitutional.At the time of the seizure, the cigarettes were being shipped from one Seneca reservation to another.Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder said Wednesday the tribe is demanding an explanation from Governor Paterson."Why did the state make a move on something that's been going on for a number of years?" Snyder asked. "Why is that process starting in August of this year? [Does it pertain] to the legislation that was passed for September 1 of this year? Or is it something to do with the federal case that's going on, over the PACT Act? I have no idea, at this point."Snyder was referring to the measure that state lawmakers approved earlier this summer, that would authorize the state to collect sales taxes on Seneca tobacco products that are sold to non-Indians. That new law is scheduled to take effect on September 1.