SALAMANCA - A Salamanca man has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud related to the sale of untaxed cigarettes and failure to file a tax return for 2005, agreeing to forfeit money and computers after Seneca Nation and ATF officials issued a search warrant at his home in the fall.
Both Seneca Nation and U.S. Attorney's office officials report Lloyd Long, president of Pirshlo Inc., and a Salamanca resident, allegedly used a business owner's native status as a ''front,'' although he is not a Nation member. Pirshlo managed two Uni-Mart Stores in Salamanca. ATF agents executed search warrants Nov. 20, 2007, at Long's residence on Front Avenue and recovered $37,000 in cash.
Long was arrested last fall after the Nation cooperated with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Explosives in an investigation into unregistered cigarette and gasoline sales at two Salamanca businesses.
According to federal authorities, Long pleaded to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and willful failure to file a tax return. He will be sentenced in federal court in Buffalo on Dec. 12. Nation officials said that could result in a prison term.
The Seneca Nation's Import-Export Commission was involved in the lengthy investigation. Nation law prohibits possession of unstamped cigarettes by anyone other than a stamping agent licensed by the Seneca Nation.
''The Seneca Nation cooperates with federal and state authorities, and we have no sympathy for outsiders who take advantage of our members, their native rights, and the Nation's treaty-protected jurisdiction, for their own private benefit,'' said Maurice A. John Sr., Seneca Nation president. ''All retailers who ignore Nation law put their business licenses and products at risk.''
John said that the Nation's cooperation with federal authorities shows the effectiveness of its self-regulation of trade on its territories. This case clearly demonstrates that sovereignty can be maintained and respected while government agencies and the Nation cooperate in ways that benefit both, John said.
Gary Sanden, CEO of the Nation's Import-Export Commission, agreed:
''Senecas will no longer be taken advantage of in cases like this,'' said Sanden. ''We monitor our transactions closely and we will catch wrongdoers.''
The Seneca Nation's Import-Export Law imposes a fee on all tobacco products imported into Nation territory prior to their retail sale. Payment of the fee is reflected by the application of a Seneca Nation import stamp on every pack of cigarettes and all pipe tobacco. Tobacco products not bearing a Seneca Nation stamp are considered contraband and subject to seizure and forfeiture, unless possessed by a stamping agent licensed by the Seneca Nation. Proceeds from the fee go to the Nation to further its programs on behalf of all Senecas.