Law enforcement authorities raided three smoke shops on the Poospatuck Indian reservation in Mastic, confiscating 300 cartons of what Philip Morris Co. alleged were counterfeit cigarettes, officials said Thursday.
No arrests were made during the Wednesday raid, carried out after U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler granted Philip Morris' request for a seizure order, according to a copy of the previously sealed order provided by Philip Morris. A hearing on a temporary retraining order is set for Sept. 3.
Fears of another raid Thursday pervaded the cluster of smoke shops on the reservation's main road, where signs for "lowest-priced" cigarettes vied for attention. Many of the 40 or so shops are in trailers, sheds or homes.
Poospatuck chief and tribal lawyer Harry Wallace charged the crackdown and lawsuits were part of a larger pattern of discrimination against the tribe, which last year filed suit against government agencies alleging discrimination.
"For whatever reason, the strategy is to pick on us," he said.
Wallace said the tribe would "vociferously appeal" the Manhattan judge's ruling barring sales to nonmembers - an order that he suggested, if enforced, would unlawfully force cigarette sellers to "start tagging and identifying [customers] by race."
David Sutton, a spokesman for Philip Morris, said "fake" Marlboro cigarettes are often made in unauthorized Chinese factories using "processes and tobacco and non-tobacco materials that are not familiar to us."
Wallace said few Poospatuck shops even carry Marlboro cigarettes.
Philip Morris filed the civil suit Tuesday in federal court in Central Islip against three smoke shops and individual shop owners in connection with the alleged counterfeiting. The shops named in the suit were Smoking Arrow Smoke Shop, Belle Belle Smoke Shop and Flying Arrows Smoke Shop, all on the reservation.Clerks at Smoking Arrow and Flying Arrows declined to comment. Belle Belle was closed.
Wallace suggested a link between the seizure at the reservation and the Manhattan judge's ruling, and claimed the tribe was being unfairly blamed in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's anti-smoking campaign. "I'm surprised the tribe is not being blamed for global warming," he said.
With Andrew Strickler
and Robert E. Kessler