Business | Law

Winnebago Tribe wins decision over tobacco seized in New York





Authorities in New York must return tobacco products that were illegally seized from a business owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, a judge ruled.

HCI Distribution hired a shipping company to transport tobacco from the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation to Nebraska. After being alerted by the U.S. Border Patrol, state police ended up seizing 26,160 cartons of cigarettes and cigars and 72 bags of loose tobacco.

But since the products weren't meant for sale in New York, they shouldn't have been seized, Judge David Demarest ruled. He said the evidence clearly showed the items were on their way to the Winnebago Reservation.

"The product was consigned to a common carrier, D and T, under a bill of lading accurately indicating the quantity, source and destination," Demarest wrote in the June 18 decision. "The affidavit of D and T's driver also supports the fact that he intended to deliver his cargo in Nebraska without making any deliveries in New York."

"Upon this evidence, the petitioner has established, prima facie, that the presumption of possession of un-stamped cigarettes was inapplicable," the decision stated.

The tobacco products that were seized are worth over $2 million, according to HCI Distribution.

New York State Court Decision:
HCI Distribution v. New York State Police (June 18, 2012)

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Tobacco products from St. Regis Mohawk Reservation seized (04/30)