Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday that New York State’s Cigarette Strike Force seized 53,307 cartons of contraband cigarettes and 261,220 untaxed cigars in 2016.
The combined street value of these items is approximately $5.6 million, and the seizures represent a 117 percent increase in illegal tobacco confiscations.
In the Finger Lakes region, 8,694 cartons of cigarettes were confiscated, along with 27,200 cigars.
The Tax Department has collected more than $1 million in penalties and fines so far this year from the illegal sale of untaxed tobacco.
“New York has zero tolerance for this illicit activity and we will continue to do everything in our power to crack down on this behavior and stop these smugglers right in their tracks,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Our message is simple: If you participate in cigarette smuggling, you will be caught and you will be held accountable.”
In 2014, Gov. Cuomo directed the Tax Department to create a Cigarette Strike Force to crack down on illegal tobacco trafficking and sales.
The Strike Force, which includes state, local, and federal agencies, also uncovered nearly 130,000 counterfeit cigarette tax stamps which resulted in 100 arrests in 2016.
All cigarette packs sold in New York must have an authorized New York State cigarette tax stamp affixed to the bottom, verifying that the excise taxes have been paid.
Defendants found guilty of violating cigarette and tobacco tax laws could face stiff jail or prison sentences and possible penalties of up to $600 per carton of illegal cigarettes seized.