District Judge Richard J. Arcara


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Defendant—a member of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe—was driving a pickup truck and U-Haul trailer, when stopped for traffic infractions. He told the sheriff’s deputy the trailer held cigarettes from the Akwesasne Reservation to the Seneca Nation. A search of the trailer disclosed 900,800 cigarettes. None had a New York state cigarette tax stamp on its packaging. Defendant was indicted for violating the Counterfeit Cigarette Trafficking Act (CCTA) and attempting to evade the federal excise tax on U.S-made cigarettes. The court granted the government’s motion in limine as to the CCTA’s scienter element, and barred defendant from making arguments based on the fact that the cigarettes were produced on a Native American reservation and were bound for another reservation. Defendant’s liability under the CCTA turns on whether he knew that his trailer contained more than 10,000 cigarettes that did not bear a New York tax stamp. Further, New York law requires that defendant’s cigarettes bear a tax stamp. Under Cook v. United States, 86 F.3d 1095, the rule in Squire v. Capoeman, 351 U.S. 1, that “Indians ‘are subject to the payment of income taxes as are other citizens….’” applied equally to the federal excise tax in question.