(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.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Cool Weather Continues; Frost Advisory South Of Chicago
“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.READ MORE: Churches, Community Groups Hold Mother's Day Ceremony For Justice For Black And Brown People Killed By Police
“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.MORE NEWS: Man Shot, Critically Wounded In Gompers Park On Northwest Side
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