Thursday, November 16, 2006

Kicking Indian Butts

In today's NY Post the Alliance's four year campaign against the Indian cigarette dealers on Long Island gets a measure of vindication with the reported arrest of the "Big Chief"-Ronald Bell- deemed to be the ring leader in the lucrative New York City black market. As the Post says, Bell is "the owner of the a Long Island Indian reservation tobacco shop who allegedly help flood New York City's stores with truckloads of illegal and counterfeit butts."

Not only New York stores, of course. Many of these illegal smokes are also flooding the city streets as backpacked hawkers sell their wares on street corners and in restaurants. This illegal, and deadly selling is costing New York's legitimate store owners over $250 million a year in lost sales and is costing city and state tax collectors over $500 million a year.

Bell and a number of co-conspirators were arrested on "felony tax charges." The Post does, however, get one salient point wrong when it says that the Indian retailer has, as sovereign territory, the right not to charge tax on cigarettes purchased right on the reservation. Not so, tax must be charged on any sale to a non-Indian, no matter where the sale takes place.