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Strike force seeks to stop tobacco smuggling

New York State is fighting back against smugglers seeking to avoid tobacco taxes.                 

New York is adjacent to several states where tobacco taxes are much lower providing opportunities to those who will smuggle in those cheaper cigarettes for illegal sale.

The state charges $4.35 per pack. New York City adds another $1.50.

In busts within the last six months by a strike force from the Taxation and Finance Department, investigators have found more than 12,000 untaxed cartons, 250,000 untaxed cigars, 25,000 counterfeit tax stamps and $1.7 million in cash.

"Since the Strike Force was pulled together about six months ago, the heat has been turned up on trying to go after illegal cigarettes," said Taxation and Finance spokesperson Cary Ziter.

"There has certainly been cases in Erie County. There have certainly been cases across New York. There's a special focus, frankly, on New York City where there is a great deal of illegal activity."

In one strike in Brooklyn, investigators seized 3,200 untaxed cartons, nearly 4,000 counterfeit tax stamps and $130,000 in cash. Ziter says these are almost all American-made tobacco products brought into the state illegally.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.