|Ho-Chunk, Inc.: Press release
Return To Press Area Contents06.30.12
Ho-Chunk, Inc. Subsidiary Wins New York Tobacco Case
Winnebago, Nebraska— Ho-Chunk, Inc. subsidiary, HCI Distribution recently won a lawsuit against the state of New York for seizing tobacco products that were legally purchased from HCI Distribution on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in New York.
This past January, HCI Distribution filed a lawsuit in Lawrence County, New York, against the State for stopping an HCI Distribution delivery truck and seizing over $400,000.00 in cigarettes by New York State Police. After being held for several hours the driver was released. The State police would not release the cigarettes. The truck’s final destination was the Winnebago Reservation located in northeast Nebraska. The tobacco products were purchased from Ohserase Manufacturing located on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in New York.
Law Firm Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLC litigated the court case for HCI Distribution in the New York Supreme Court. Attorneys for the Firm argued in the case that there are no taxes due on the seized tobacco and there was no basis for the seizure. On June 18th, the judge ruled that all property seized by the New York State Police was to be immediately returned. The cigarettes are tax exempt because they were meant to be sold to out-of-state customers. HCI Distribution is waiting to receive all seized tobacco products from the State Police.
“I am pleased with the New York Supreme Court’s ruling,” announced Lance Morgan, CEO and President of Ho-Chunk, Inc. “The ruling verifies that New York police and the District Attorney illegally seized our products. Our rights in interstate commerce and our ability to conduct fair trade should not be compromised. This is an ongoing battle between states who want to restrict our economic development and protect Big Tobacco’s share; and the rights of federally recognized Indian Tribes in regard to sovereign immunity and the ability to conduct commerce on Indian reservations free of state control.”
Big Tobacco is a designation of the four largest tobacco manufacturers in the United States. Through the MSA Agreement enacted in 1998, participating states have an obligation to protect Big Tobacco’s market share in return for millions of dollars of MSA payments to the states. The recent New York seizure is seen as one more example of states trying to comply with Big Tobacco demands.
HCI Distribution is one of the largest Tribal tobacco distributors in the U.S. The company is located on the Winnebago Reservation in northeast Nebraska in a state-of-the-art 16,000 square foot facility. HCI Distribution is one of the fastest growing of the Ho-Chunk, Inc. companies. In 2003, the company was named the largest minority-owned business in Nebraska.
Ho-Chunk, Inc. is the award-winning economic development corporation owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. The Ho-Chunk, Inc. mission is to develop economic self-sufficiency and job opportunities for Tribal members. The company operates 26 subsidiaries with operations in 11 states, Washington D.C. and 5 foreign countries. Ho-Chunk, Inc. employs over 1,000 people.