HAMMOND | A Delaware tobacco company is suing Dyer businesses for damages after the stores allegedly sold counterfeit Newport cigarettes, according to an amended complaint filed this week in Hammond federal court.

Lorillard Tobacco Co. filed a federal lawsuit against Dyer's Smokers Den and Always Open convenience store, both located in the 15000 block of West 101st Avenue, and the company shareholders, Subhash Malhotra, Manzoor Hussain, Amanat Hussain, Mazhar Hussain and Asif Mehmood.

Chicago attorney Peter Soukaras, who is representing the businesses and shareholders, said they are working with Lorillard to find out how 20 or 30 cartons of potentially counterfeit cigarettes got into the stores' inventories. Soukaras said Smokers Den sells hundreds of packs of cigarettes a week.

"My client is not willfully disseminating counterfeit cigarettes and is cooperating fully with Lorillard, and is seeking from the onset an amicable solution to make sure this doesn't happen again," Soukaras said.

When asked the names and number of the stores' wholesale suppliers, Soukaras said he could not comment because they "have been cooperating to ascertain that information."

Lorillard claims the businesses have been selling counterfeits of its leading brand, Newport cigarettes, according to court records. Newport cigarettes have been around since the 1950s, according to the complaint, and are now the leading brand of menthol cigarettes sold in the U.S.

The lawsuit cites increases in federal and Indiana state cigarette taxes as increasing the number of counterfeiters.

"With these high tax levels, bootleggers can price counterfeit cigarettes below prevailing market prices and can pocket not only the profit on the cigarettes themselves but also a substantial portion of what would otherwise be owed to the government in taxes," the lawsuit states.

Attorneys from Hammond's Eichhorn & Eichhorn firm who are representing Lorillard declined to comment due to the pending litigation.

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