CHICAGO — Sheriff's police pulled in one of the largest hauls of unlicensed cigarettes on record, after the smokes were found hidden behind a false wall in a North Lawndale convenience store Thursday, officials said.
Nearly 5,000 packs of cigarettes were found about 12:15 p.m. during a routine inspection at Tom's Food Mart, 3553 W. Roosevelt Road, according to a news release from the Cook County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff's police and Cook County Department of Revenue inspectors noticed a man passing through a false wall, which was in a closed-off area behind a bookcase in the shop, according to the release.
Behind the wall, officials found 4,977 packs of cigarettes without a county stamp, one of the largest finds of unlicensed cigarettes ever, the release said.
The Cook County tax on cigarettes jumped a dollar Friday to $3, making the tax total for a pack of smokes in the county more than $6. The additional tax is hoped to raise more than $25 million for the heavily endebted county and discourage cigarette smoking.
Reports say the average pack of cigarettes in the county will cost $12, making the market value of the haul from Tom's Food Mart nearly $60,000 in retail sales and nearly $15,000 in sales tax.
The owner of Tom's Food Mart was fined $128,425 by the county, the statement said.
Cook County collected about $1.3 million in cigarette tax fines in 2012, according to the Sheriff's Office.