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Cook County Cracking Down On Illegal Cigarette Sales

Mike Parker Mike Parker
Mike Parker has been a general assignment reporter for CBS 2 Chicago...
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(CBS) – Cook County is cracking down on illegal cigarettes being brought in to our area from out-of-state and being sold at deep discounts.

There was a steady stream of customers headed for archer tobacco next door to a parking lot at Archer and Central. It seems they may have been bargain hunters.

“This guy’s selling cigarettes from Missouri at seven fifty a (bleep) pack,” said one customer

He showed us his pack of smokes with tax stamps from the state of Missouri and St. Louis County.

Selling illegal cigarettes from out of state, without a Cook County or Illinois tax stamp is a major problem.

“It’s hard to estimate exactly. we do know it is in the millions of dollars,” said Kenneth Harris, Cook County Department of Revenue Director.

Tuesday, county revenue investigators paid a visit to archer tobacco, searching for illegal cigarettes.

They’ve found them here before. In November 2013, 119 unstamped packs were for sale. The owners were fined $5,900, and they were hit with another $3,000 in fines late last month. But this time, they found nothing.

Meanwhile, the evidence room at the county building is bulging with seized cigarettes from all the from cases that have not yet gone to court.

The county writes $4 million worth of tobacco citations every year, but only 15 to 20 percent of them are paid off by cigarette bootleggers. Mostly they’re ignored. The debts are handed over to collection agencies