URBANA — Urbana police spent about two hours this morning searching an east Urbana convenience mart for drug paraphernalia and arrested two of its employees for allegedly selling it.
At 8 a.m. Thursday, police served a search warrant at the Home Run Food Mart, 1509 E. Washington St., U, closing the business while they looked for items commonly used to consume narcotics.
They also arrested Ramzi Alsaqri, 49, who listed an address in the 2300 block of Ironwood Circle, Champaign, and Mohammed Mahmoud, 27, who listed an address in the 2400 block of High View Court, Champaign, for unlawful sale of drug paraphernalia, a Class 4 felony. The men were arrested at the business.
Urbana police Lt. Bob Fitzgerald said police also served Alsaqri, whom he described as the president of the corporation that owns the Home Run, with a temporary order prohibiting the sale of liquor for seven days. A hearing on the business' package liquor license is scheduled before Mayor Pro Tem Charlie Smyth Tuesday, acting in his capacity as the liquor commissioner while Mayor Laurel Prussing is away.
Fitzgerald said the business will not be able to reopen until the liquor is removed, which he expects will happen later Thursday when other employees arrive to do that. The business is free to sell other merchandise.
Earlier this week police obtained a search warrant for the business and the arrest warrants after an ongoing investigation revealed that store employees were illegally selling drug paraphernalia.
The food mart is a popular gathering spot for residents of the Lierman Avenue and Washington Street areas and one of the few commercial establishments that sells food or liquor in that area.
Fitzgerald said although the convenient mart itself is not often the subject of calls for police service, the area around it is and the city is doing what it can to improve the quality of life for residents there.
Having easy access to the materials to smoke crack cocaine, he said, "decreases the value of life in that area."
"We've worked with apartment owners and community groups to take away the stigma associated with South Lierman. It's not as bad as it was last summer. We're still having problems and we're trying to address those problems," he said, referring to a carjacking that happened Friday night and a recent home invasion.