An Oskaloosa woman has lost her appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court for a lesser sentence in the sale of untaxed cigarettes. Oskaloosa police received a tip in early 2010 that Lorraine Messer was selling cigarettes without an Iowa tax stamp on them from her home.

Officers went in undercover and bought some cigarettes, and then got a warrant and searched and found 218 packs of the untaxed tobacco. Iowa law says you can only have 40 untaxed cigarettes in your possession.

Messer said she bought the smokes at Indian casinos untaxed for $27 a carton and sold them for $30 a carton — with the profit covering the expense of traveling to buy the cigarettes. Messer pled guilty in district court to fraudulent practices.

The district court ruled her crime was a third-degree offense based on the 625-dollar value of the untaxed cigarettes. Messer was given a 30-day jail sentence and a $625 fine, but those were suspended, and she was ordered to pay restitution and court costs.

Messer appealed saying the crime should be based on the amount of unpaid cigarette tax — about $300 — which would drop the crime level to fourth-degree fraudulent practices. Dropping the level of the crime from third to fourth degree cuts the maximum amount of jail time and the amount of the fine.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled the it is the value of the property involved that determines the degree of Messer’s fraudulent practice, and upheld the lower court ruling.

See the full ruling here: Messer ruling PDF