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NEW YORK -- John Catsimatidis, chief executive officer of the Red Apple Group and Gristedes Foods, is taking aim again at two Native America tribes on Long Island for what he claims is an unfair cigarette taxation issue.
In 2006, Gristede’s brought legal suit against the Unkechaug and Shinnecock tribes, contending the tribes violated civil racketeering statutes by selling untaxed cigarettes. Marlboros cost about $4.20 from the tribes’ retailers vs. twice that at New York City retailers after the latest tax hike, The New Yorker reported. The suit was later dismissed.
Catsimatidis, a potential Republican mayoral candidate, claims if the tribes were taxed, the state could save itself from financial strife.
"The Indians have to pay taxes like anyone else," Catsimatidis told the magazine. "I spoke to the Senate Majority Leader, Dean Skelos, and he agrees that collection of taxes from Indians would help the shortfall in the budget."
Unkechaug Chief Harry Wallace maintained the lawsuit has no grounds. "He’s using this as a publicity stunt in his campaign for mayor," Wallace told The New Yorker. "It’s a mayoral campaign for a billionaire, and I have to tell New York: Beware of billionaires bearing gifts."