The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Nearly 5,000 Packs of Unlicensed Cigarettes Found in False Wall

By DNAinfo Staff on February 28, 2013 7:08pm

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.

Cigarette tax dodging has been on the rise, and authorities have been on the lookout for the crime since the summer.

Cook County collected about $1.3 million in cigarette tax fines in 2012, according to the Sheriff's Office.