Seneca Truck, Cigarettes Returned

August 11, 2010 Updated Aug 11, 2010 at 6:55 PM EDT

By Laura Gray

August 11, 2010 Updated Aug 11, 2010 at 6:55 PM EDT

Irving, NY (WKBW) -- The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance spokesperson Brian Maione says the items have been returned now that quote "certain new facts have come to light." Maione insists that the stop and seizure on a Seneca truck Monday was lawful, but he wouldn't tell us today what those new facts were that prompted the state to return the truck.
Earlier today, we talked with Aaron Pierce. He believed that the seizure was retaliation for his federal PACT Act lawsuit. Pierce tells us undercover state agents took off with the truck and 100-thousand dollars worth of cigarettes during the seizure which he believes was illegal.
Monday, the state claimed that the truck was seized because cigarettes didn't carry the appropriate tax stamps. Officials at Pierce's company, AJ's Wholesalers, showed us the stamping machine today, which is described as state of the art. Pierce says the cigarettes in question, "had the proper Seneca Nation stamp. That's what we go by."
Pierce says the seizure coincided too closely with his Tuesday court appearance. Pierce asked a federal judge in Buffalo for an injunction on the federal PACT Act that would allow Senecas to continue mailing cigarettes while their appeal is decided on in New York City. "this is complete retaliation for my suit." He says.
While the Senecas are battling the PACT Act, the state plans to collect taxes on sales to non-Indian customers starting September first. Seneca President Barry Snyder today questions the state's timing in seizing a truck full of cigarettes belonging to a Seneca retailer. Snyder says he's concerned it could happen again without an assurance from Governor David Paterson's office. Even though the truck has been returned, Snyder's questions remain. "We need to know exactly what is taking place. Was there direction from the governor? Did this happened and he did not know?"
The return of the truck was the outcome Snyder was hoping for. The Seneca President told us earlier today that he will not make any conclusions about why the truck was seized until he hears from Governor David Paterson.