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Former tribal chairman disputes state cigarette tax

October 5, 2018

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. (AP) — A former Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman said he plans to take the state of Connecticut to court over Native American-made cigarettes.

Kenny Reels told The Day the state Department of Revenue Services seized cigarettes in his store on the Mashantucket Pequot reservation made by other Native American tribes.

The 58-year-old store owner said Thursday he didn’t pay state taxes on those cigarettes, and he thought they were exempt from taxes because they are distributed between sovereign tribes.

Reels sold the Native American-made cigarettes at his store for the past 18 months. He said he was “shocked it took so long” for state revenue agents to arrive.

The raid on Reels’ store was part of an “ongoing criminal investigation,” according to a revenue department spokesman. He declined to comment further.

Reels said his store’s files and cash register software were also taken by authorities. He also said a revenue agent told him there is $4.35 in excise tax on every pack of cigarettes sold in the state.

“I let him know the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation is not Connecticut,” Reels said.

Reels said no charges have been filed against him. His lawyer said his client has complied with all state laws.

This is not the first time Connecticut has clashed with tribe members over tax-free cigarettes.

The Golden Hill Paugussett tribe’s former chief Moonface Bear was charged with illegally selling the cigarettes a decade ago, and he led a 13-week standoff before surrendering to state police.

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