Rep. Cox: Contraband ‘tip of the iceberg’

Legislative Staff Release

Published: 16-Dec-2010

The recent seizure of $150,000 of tribal contraband cigarettes “represents only the tip of the iceberg” according to one state legislator.

State Rep. Doug Cox, M.D., says court documents establish that tribal trafficking in illegal tribal cigarettes is costing Oklahoma over a million dollars of revenue each month.

“The two tribes in Oklahoma that continue to break the law are the Creek Nation and the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe. These two tribes are costing the citizens of Oklahoma and their own tribal members huge sums of money by not being part of the MSA (Master Settlement Agreement — which lists approved cigarettes for sale in Oklahoma),” said Cox, a Grove Republican.

Cox maintains that two involved tribes would make more money per pack if they operated within the law.

“The people gaining by the illegal activity are the smoke shop owners, at the expense of tribal members,” he said.

“It is time for the tribal members of the Creeks and Seneca-Cayugas, as well as federal and state law enforcement agencies, to examine the relationship of tribal council members with the smoke shop owners. They should look at things such as trips to Las Vegas, automobiles, and cash payments. In addition they should look at the importation of cigarettes making their way from Canada through New York and then into Oklahoma where they are sold with illegal tax stamps.

“Money that could be used for tribal housing, roads, healthcare, education, and public safety is going into the pockets of the smoke shop owners, rather than the tribal coffers.”  

Cox said the Creek Nation has a long history of selling illegal cigarettes without a tax stamp throughout their network of smoke shops.

“The Seneca Cayuga Tribe’s illegal activity gets less attention due to their smaller size, but they are costing Oklahoma significant dollars. It would be interesting to know the volume of illegal cigarettes sold just at the little drive-through smoke shop near the Will Roger’s Turnpike (I-44) in Miami alone, as well as their stand alone smoke shop in the parking lot of the Seneca-Cayuga Casino north of Grove,” he said.

Cox is also concerned about how the cigarettes produced by the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe at their factory, also located north of Grove, are distributed and whether they are all eventually sold with legal tax stamps.

“I applaud the efforts of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the Oklahoma Tax Commission,” Cox said. “However, to really be an effective deterrent to this illegal activity that is costing the citizens of Oklahoma, they need to look further up the chain of illegal activity.”