Cunning hiding places for illegal cigarettes and tobacco weren't enough to fool Middlesbrough Trading Standards.
The secret stashes of contraband were rumbled when eagle-eyed officers called at two shops in the town.
And the crafty attempts to evade the law have landed those responsible in court and facing potentially hefty fines.
Teesside Magistrates heard two cases on Tuesday (April 27) relating to the illegal trade from two shops.
The court was told that Trading Standards officers - supported by Cleveland Police - found illegal and counterfeit cigarettes in sophisticated hides on three separate occasions at the Supermarket store on North Ormesby Market Place.
On November 14, 2018 the goods were discovered concealed in a till and a music system which had been hollowed out to accommodate the tobacco - 2,420 cigarettes and 140g of hand rolling tobacco were seized.
The following day officers found and seized a further 3,240 cigarettes and 400g of hand rolling tobacco concealed in a hole which had been hollowed out in the wall which would be covered when the door was opened into the room.
A three-month closure was subsequently granted on the premises, but when officers returned on October 18 the following year they found 14,740 cigarettes and 4.75kg of tobacco hidden in a ceiling cavity in the rear room.
The premises were closed again with a closure order.
Defendant Dyary Kadir, 47, of Market Place, North Ormesby, admitted 11 offences relating to selling goods with sign or packaging bearing a sign identical or likely to be mistaken for a registered trademark.
Omar Usman Akram, 54, of Parliament Road, Middlesbrough pleaded guilty to six charges.
The pair represented themselves through a remote interpreter when they appeared in court.
In the second case Karwan Karim Kadrinijad, 32, of Palm Street, pleaded guilty to having 1,440 cigarettes and 550g of hand rolling tobacco when he was working at the Cut Price Electrical Store on Parliament Road.
The illegal goods were stashed in a bag and a box which he tried to hide from officers by running away from the premises and discarding them in a communal bin in the rear alleyway.
All three defendants will be sentenced on Tuesday, May 25
Judith Hedgley, Middlesbrough Council's Head of Public Protection, said: "Enforcement of illicit tobacco will remain a priority for this service.
"We will continue to try to stamp out this illegal practice."
Councillor Dorothy Davison, Middlesbrough Council's Executive member for Adult Social Care and Public Health said: "Illicit tobacco is a scourge on our society, bringing crime into our neighbourhoods and maintaining health inequalities.
"These cases show that despite the increasingly sophisticated methods used in the illicit tobacco trade to deter enforcement, Middlesbrough Council's Trading Standards team are more than capable of meeting these challenges to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice."
Anyone with information on illicit cigarette sales can contact the reporting hotline on 01642 728223 or message via the Middlesbrough Trading Standards Facebook Page or email EHTS@middlesbrough.gov.uk