a shell game

a shell game

  (American)
a method of deceiving or cheating someone, by moving things from one place to another in order to hide what you are doing
Usage notes: A shell game is a game in which someone must guess which of three shells a ball or pea (= a small, round, green vegetable) is placed under when they are moved quickly around.
The thieves played a shell game with the police, constantly shifting the stolen goods. He owns many small businesses in different states as part of a shell game to save on taxes.
See also: game, shell