The NY Times focuses today on the prosecutorial acumen of Suffolk County DA Thomas Spota. It was Spota who, alone among New York officials, actually did something to stem the tide of cigarette smuggling in the state.
In contrast to our timid (beware of Indian violence) Governor Pataki, Spota ran a nine month sting operation that broke up a black market operation that cost New York around $500 million in lost tax revenues. More ominously, the DA believes that $8 million that wasn't recovered had been shipped to terrorists in the Middle East. Last year another smuggling ring linked to Hezbollah was broken up in North Carolina.
As we have been commenting the confiscatory cigarette tax foisted on the city in 2002 is the direct culprit for the increased smuggling, This 1800% increase has cost city retailers $1 billion in lost revenue in the past four years. Most of these lost sales have been absorbed by a black market that is driven by tax-dodging Indian retailers like those DA Spota busted on the Island.
It does look, however, that more NY elected officials are starting to take all of this stuff seriously. In fact we have been told by AG Spitzer that he will close the Indian retail loophole that Pataki has refused to deal with. We can't wait.