Federal prosecutors in Missouri have charged a prominent Seneca Nation businessman with making illegal deals to buy nearly $500,000 worth of untaxed cigarettes from an undercover agent from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives.
William F. "Willie" Parry, who operates the popular Wolf's Run store in Irving, has been charged with a felony count of wire fraud, according to court documents obtained Friday by The Buffalo News.
Federal agents spent several hours conducting a court-authorized raid Wednesday at Wolf's Run, which is located on Route 438 in Erie County, on the Seneca's Cattaraugus Reservation.
"I plan to fight the charges ... there will be no plea deal," Parry, 51, said in an interview.
Although a federal government spokesman told reporters Wednesday that no one was criminally charged, The News learned Friday of the felony charge against Parry. The businessman made a brief appearance in Buffalo's federal court before Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr.
Schroeder released Parry without bail but ordered him to appear in a federal court in Kansas City, Mo., no later than Oct. 11. The judge also ordered Parry to turn in any firearms he owns and prohibited him from buying any new firearms.
According to a criminal complaint filed by prosecutors from Kansas City, Parry is accused of taking part in two illegal business deals with an ATF agent who was posing as a dealer of untaxed cigarettes.
On Dec. 16, 2011, the undercover agent delivered 140 cases of "unstamped" - or untaxed - cigarettes to a warehouse building owned by Parry in Irving.
In July of this year, the ATF alleged, Parry called the undercover agent again, asking for "more product."
According to court papers, the undercover man told Parry that the cigarettes he would bring to him were "found on the side of the road, implying that they were stolen."
The government alleges that Parry made a deal with the undercover agent for another 168 cases of cigarettes, for which Parry would pay $358,560.
In a telephone interview Friday afternoon, Parry suggested that Robert Odawi Porter, the Seneca Nation president, may have encouraged the federal investigation that led to his arrest.
Parry said Porter wants retribution against him because, for more than a year, Parry has been fighting against Seneca Nation efforts to collect its own taxes on cigarette and gasoline sales by Seneca businesses.
A Seneca Nation spokeswoman said Porter had "absolutely nothing" to do with the federal investigation. She noted that the ATF investigation, according to publicly filed court papers, began in Kansas City, Mo., in the summer of 2010 and that a Missouri businessman was the original target of the probe.
The fact is, neither my office nor any member of [the tribal] council was informed of the impending raid, and only learned of the ATF's presence upon their arrival," Porter said.
Parry's attorney in the case, Paul J. Cambria, said, his client "doesn't feel he has done anything wrong."