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Sheriff’s police seize 4,977 packs of cigarettes hidden behind fake wall

Photo/Cook County Sheriff's police.

Photo/Cook County Sheriff's police.

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Behind a hidden wall discovered during a routine search of a North Lawndale convenience store, Cook County Sheriff’s Police found nearly 5,000 packs of unlicensed cigarettes Thursday, authorities said.

When sheriff’s police entered Tom’s Food Mart, 3553 W. Roosevelt Rd., just past noon, they saw a man pass through a false wall, according to a release from the sheriff’s office. They found a false wall hidden behind a bookcase that led to a storage area containing 4,977 packs of cigarettes with no county tax stamps. Police seized the cigarettes.

Sheriff’s police and Department of Revenue inspectors had stopped at the store for a routine check to make sure cigarettes sold there had proper tax stamps, according to the release.

Thursday’s find — the largest tobacco seizure of its kind to date — resulted in a $128,425 fine for the store’s owner, sheriff’s police said.

Revenue enforcement officers conduct random inspections to ensure the city collects its due tax, which is $3 per pack of cigarettes, sheriff’s police said.

Last year, the county collected about $1.3 million in cigarette tax fines.

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