Cuomo Sets Up Tobacco Strike Force

Intends to crack down on illegal cigarette, tobacco trafficking, sales

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

Andrew Cuomo

ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has established a new Cigarette Strike Force to crack down on illegal tobacco trafficking and sales. The Strike Force is composed of state, local and federal agencies dedicated to stopping the influx of counterfeit and untaxed tobacco products into the state New York.

The Strike Force also focuses on tracing any illicit financial earnings from that criminal 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."

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.

"We thank the local and federal law enforcement agencies who are partnering with us on this effort to eliminate illegal cigarette trafficking," said Commissioner of Taxation & Finance Thomas H. Mattox.

The initiative will be coordinated and managed under the leadership of the Tax Department's Criminal Investigations Division. Michael Spinosa will serve as chief investigator to supervise the Strike Force.

Under Investigator Spinosa's leadership, the Tax Department has seized contraband cigarettes in 18 separate cases already this year.

The current tax on a pack of 20 cigarettes in New York State is $4.35; in New York City there is an additional $1.50 in tax added to the $4.35. The penalty for possession of unstamped cigarettes is $600 per carton and possible criminal charges.

"This seasoned team will take a multi-pronged approach to cigarette tax enforcement," said Risa Sugarman, deputy commissioner of criminal enforcement for the Tax Department. "In addition to targeting the trafficking itself, we will use our intelligence centers and audit powers to trace financing activities and stop the criminal organizations at the roots of the crimes."

Assets seized during Strike Force investigations will be shared among participating agencies. The members of the Strike Force include:

  • New York State Department of Taxation & Finance
  • U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives
  • U.S. Custom & Border Protection
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • U.S. Food & Drug Administration
  • New York County District Attorney's Office
  • Richmond County District Attorney's Office
  • Rockland County District Attorney's Office
  • Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Department
  • Erie County Sheriff's Department
  • New York City Sheriff's Office
  • Niagara County Sheriff's Office
  • Suffolk County Police Department