Cayuga Indian Nation Seeks Court Order

Wants to resume selling cigarettes in Seneca, Cayuga counties

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It's back to court for the Cayuga Indian Nation in its long-running tax feud with Cayuga and Seneca counties in New York, reported The Post-Standard. Today, the Cayugas will seek a court order that would allow them to resume peddling tax-free cigarettes at their convenience stores in Union Springs and the town of Seneca Falls.

The nation was forced to stop selling cigarettes November 25 after sheriff's deputies in both counties seized all of their 17,600 cartons of smokes for not paying some $485,000 in state excise taxes on them, said the report.[image-nocss]

The Cayugas plan to ask state Supreme Court Judge Kenneth Fisher, of Monroe County, for an injunction on grounds that last week's searches were illegal and that the counties are trying to enforce a law that is not in effect, Daniel French, a nation lawyer, said Monday.

The counties say otherwise, according to the report. They will argue that the Cayugas' LakeSide Trading stores are not on sovereign, tax-free reservation land and that it is illegal to possess and sell unstamped cigarettes on nonreservation land, Seneca County District Attorney Richard Swinehart said.

"We say we have the right to do it; they say we don't. The judge will decide; that's the bottom line," Swinehart told the newspaper.

Both counties have been trying for about three years to force the Cayugas to pay taxes on sales of cigarettes and gasoline at their c-stores, the report said.

The excise tax on the confiscated cigarettes amounts to $27.50 per carton but does not include sales tax.

The counties say the Cayugas are driving competitors out of business because the nation can sell their goods at lower, tax-free prices. "There's no exemption for them not to pay the tax. They're simply evading paying millions of dollars of taxes," Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann told the paper.

The Cayugas own many properties, including the two c-stores, in their ancestral homeland around the north end of Cayuga Lake. Their application to have the stores and other properties put into federal trust which would make them sovereign and tax-free forever is pending before the federal government, said the report.