New York State’s Cigarette Strike Force seized $6.6 million worth of contraband tobacco in 2017, a $1 million increase compared with last year’s total. Untaxed cigars made up the bulk of these confiscations. Investigators seized more than 1.5 million illegal cigars this year compared with 260,000 last year, a 476 percent increase. More than 47,000 cartons of untaxed cigarettes have been seized along with 134,000 counterfeit tax stamps and nearly $445,000 in cash. “This illicit activity not only hurts law abiding businesses, but it also places undue burdens on taxpayers due to the loss of state revenue for vital services,” Governor Cuomo said. “This administration will continue to do everything in its power to crack down on these criminals and help ensure a fair and level playing field for all.”
This year, Cigarette Strike Force investigators also arrested 85 accused cigarette and tobacco smugglers who face more than $7 million in fines.
In 2014, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo directed the Tax Department to create a Cigarette Strike Force to stem illegal tobacco trafficking and sales. Since its inception, each year the Strike Force has increased the number of inspections and seizures. In October, the Tax Department announced that it joined forces with the Gaming Commission, which oversees lottery ticket sales, and the State Liquor Authority in an initiative to further reduce sales of contraband cigarettes.
Under the policy, a tobacco-licensed retailer found to be in possession of untaxed cigars or cigarettes will face immediate enforcement action, leading to the possible suspension or revocation of licenses to sell tobacco, alcohol, and lottery tickets.