State investigating cigarette sales on Mashantucket reservation

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Mashantucket — State agents investigating cigarette sales raided a private store on the Mashantucket Pequot reservation this week, a Department of Revenue Services spokesman confirmed Tuesday.

“The Connecticut Department of Revenue Services can confirm that activities were conducted by DRS personnel in the area yesterday as part of an active and ongoing criminal investigation,” Jim Polites, the department’s communications director, wrote in an email response to questions. “DRS, at this time, is unable to comment further due to the active status of the investigation.”

Polites indicated that Monday’s “activity” on the reservation resulted from the work of the department’s Criminal Investigation Division, which has a unit dedicated to enforcing cigarette and tobacco laws.

While Polites did not specify the location of the store being investigated, sources who asked to remain anonymous said it was the Pequot Trading Post, which Kenny Reels, a former Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council chairman, runs from his home on Ephraim’s Path.

Lori Potter, a tribal spokeswoman, said the investigation involved a private business “that is not owned by or affiliated with the tribe, so we are unable to comment on it.”

Reels is vice chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Commission, which oversees gambling activity at the tribe’s Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Reels was not at home Tuesday and could not be reached for comment. Two people working in his store declined to answer a reporter's questions. One said he would neither confirm nor deny that the store was being investigated.

The store sells various Native American products and cartons of cigarettes for “$30 and Up,” according to the store’s business card.

State law requires that a business that sells cigarettes obtain a dealer’s license. Dealers must pay the excise tax that the state levies on cigarettes, typically by purchasing tax stamps from the Department of Revenue Services and affixing a stamp to each pack of cigarettes. The cost of the stamps is ultimately passed on to retail customers.

As of Dec. 1, 2017, the Connecticut cigarette tax is $4.35 per pack. Cigarettes also are subject to the state’s 6.35 percent sales tax. Cartons of cigarettes generally contain 10 packs.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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