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Press Release

Two Plead Guilty In Federal Court To Illegally Manufacturing Cigarettes On The St. Regis Mohawk Reservation

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of New York

Richard S. Hartunian, United States Attorney, Northern District of New York, Eric T. Schneiderman, New York State Attorney General, and Joseph Anarumo, Jr., the Special-Agent-in- Charge of the New York Field Office of the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) announced today that Robert C. Oliver, Sr., 53, of Burke, New York, and Jody Swamp, 48, of Hogansburg, New York, pled guilty in U.S. District Court in Utica, New York, to federal charges relating to illegally manufacturing cigarettes on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, known as Akwesasne. Each defendant pled guilty to one count charging Manufacturing Cigarettes Without Filing the Bond and Obtaining the Required Permit, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 5762(a)(1) (Count 1), and one count charging Failure to Maintain Records Concerning the Shipment, Receipt, Sale, and Distribution of Cigarettes, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2343(a) (Count 2).

The pleas were entered before U.S. District Court Judge David N. Hurd. Count 1 carries a statutory maximum sentence of imprisonment for up to 5 years, a fine of up to $250,000, a term of supervised release of up to 3 years, and a special assessment of $100. Count 2 carries a statutory maximum sentence of imprisonment for up to three years, a fine of up to $250,000, a term of supervised release of up to three years, and a special assessment of $100. If the terms of the plea agreements signed by the defendants are accepted by the Court, each defendant will be sentenced to a term of imprisonment within the range of 24 to 30 months, to be followed by supervised release for 3 years, a fine of up to $250,000, forfeiture in the amount of $5,000,000 (with $1,000,000 to be paid by the time of sentencing), and a special assessment of $200. Sentencing is scheduled for August 3, 2013, before Judge Hurd in Utica, New York. The defendants were released on their own recognizance pending sentencing.

The defendants admitted that:
Between July of 2010 and October of 2011, the defendants manufactured cigarettes on Akwesasne without the required permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and failed to pay the federal excise tax of approximately $10 for each carton of cigarettes produced. The defendants had scores of shipments exceeding 10,000 cigarettes made to locations elsewhere in New York, and to Florida and Maine, all without complying with federal record-keeping requirements so they could evade payment of the federal excise tax. At least 2,556 cases totaling 76,680 cartons of unlicensed cigarettes were shipped from a property on Frogtown Road on Akwesasne. The $5,000,000 forfeiture represents the amount of profit realized by the defendants from their illegal cigarette manufacturing.

United States Attorney Hartunian said, “Each year, the United States loses millions of dollars in federal excise taxes as a result of unlicensed cigarette manufacturing operations on Akwesasne. Manufacturers who do not pay their excise taxes have an unfair advantage over licensed manufacturers on and off Akwesasne, as they can charge lower prices and reap substantial extra profits. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue its work with federal and tribal authorities to bring unlicensed cigarette manufacturing operations on Akwesasne into compliance with federal regulations. We appreciate very much the cooperation and outstanding work in this case by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the New York State Attorney General’s Office.”

Attorney General Schneiderman said, “Illegally manufacturing tobacco products is a crime that hurts law abiding businesses and the health of our communities. These guilty pleas will bring accountability for a scheme that had many victims. I would like to thank U.S. Attorney Hartunian and our partners in law enforcement who have worked with us to root out this unlawful criminal enterprise. Together, we will remain vigilant to ensure there is one set of rules for everyone and that those rules are vigorously enforced.”

ATF Special-Agent-in-Charge Anarumo, Jr. said, “I would like to formally recognize United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian and our federal, state and local law enforcement partners. This case demonstrates the cooperative efforts needed to combat large scale contraband tobacco trafficking. ATF remains committed to protecting the citizens of New York State. Our agency will continue to work together and in conjunction with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York to eliminate the illegal manufacture and distribution of tobacco products.”

The indictment resulted from an investigation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, with assistance from the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the New York State Police, and the Petroleum, Alcohol, and Tobacco Bureau of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kevin P. Dooley of the Binghamton office, and Assistant Attorney General Meryl Lutsky of the New York Attorney General’s Office, who was cross-designated as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for this case. Inquiries can be directed to AUSA Dooley at (607) 773-2887.

Updated January 29, 2015