Niagara Gazette

April 1, 2014

Task force to address illegal cigarette sales

Staff Reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Niagara and Erie county Sheriff's departments will be part of new task force formulated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo administration to address illegal cigarette sales. 

The respective law enforcement agencies will join a multi-agency "strike force" composed of local, state and federal authorities. Cuomo said that combined the agencies would work toward halting counterfeit and untaxed tobacco products as well as money made from illicit activity. 

"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," Cuomo said. "Would-be traffickers are now on notice: They will be caught and they will be brought to justice."

The initiative will be coordinated and managed by the state Tax Department’s Criminal Investigations Division. The strike force will be headed by Michael Spinosa, who has a background in law enforcement with a focus on money laundering as a detective with the New York City Police Department, and who has led 18 cases in which contraband cigarettes have been seized. 

Cuomo said by combining resources, the members of the strike force will be able to both improve their database of crime-related intelligence and share critical information as the team works to disrupt and dismantle major trafficking organizations.

The current tax on a pack of 20 cigarettes in New York state is $4.35, while the penalty for possession of unstamped cigarettes is $600 per carton and possible criminal charges.