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Tribe suit alleges Levy, Spota, Dormer conspired

An amended federal lawsuit filed last week by the Unkechauge tribe of Mastic claims that New York City officials conspired with Suffolk police and county officials to harass Native American tribe members on a Suffolk reservation last year.

The initial complaint, filed in December 2008 in the federal Eastern District, stems from an incident that month in which the tribe says County Executive Steve Levy, Police Commissioner Richard Dormer and District Attorney Thomas Spota ordered police to harass tribe members with traffic stops, road blockades and other measures.

The amended lawsuit filed Thursday by an attorney representing the tribe and Chief Harry Wallace charges the trio "conspired" with city officials and that the incident "constitutes intentional and systematic racial discrimination."

City attorney Eric Proshansky, named in the amended suit along with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city lawyers, said Saturday the suit has no merit.

"The law requires you to have factual basis before bringing a lawsuit. There is no factual basis here and the city will seek sanctions against [Unkechauge attorney] Mr. [James] Simermeyer," he said.

The filing is a new front in an increasingly bitter battle between city officials and those they claim sell untaxed cigarettes to bootleggers, who then resell them in the five boroughs for a profit.

The city won a restraining order last August blocking several Poospatuck smoke shops from selling untaxed cigarettes to nontribal members. Last week, the city asked a federal judge to hold three Poospatuck smoke-shop owners in contempt of that order. A lawyer for the shop owners has denied that charge.

Federal prosecutors also last week filed documents claiming Poospatuck cigarette tycoon Rodney Morrison owes more than $50 million in back taxes for smoke sales between 1996 and 2004.

Morrison remains behind bars awaiting sentencing for his 2008 conviction for running a cigarette bootlegging operation and weapons possession. He was acquitted of charges of murder and assault following the death of a rival cigarette dealer.

His attorney, Richard Levitt, said last week he would file papers opposing the request for restitution.

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