Police shut down convenience mart during early morning search for paraphernalia

Police shut down convenience mart during early morning search for paraphernalia

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.


 

Comments

News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

Fromthearea wrote on June 07, 2012 at 8:06 am

This is reeeeeally vague.  What kind of drug paraphernalia?  Where they selling syringes for herion?  Waterpipes?  What?  Have you been down to Green street and seen the "tobacco" shops?  I could see why this place was specifically targeted, but why not target the clientele outside bullying the general public and not the business owners?  This article is fairly useless aside from gossip fodder.

prideCU wrote on June 07, 2012 at 9:06 am

Keywords: "Unlawful sale". If you really were from this area, you would know that this convenience store is known for criminal activity. I hope to see it shut down for good. Clean up Urbana.

rsp wrote on June 07, 2012 at 9:06 am

Maybe not shut down. Maybe an honest business in there would be better. With some good food, not just pop, chips, and alcohol.

prideCU wrote on June 07, 2012 at 10:06 am

You certainly have a point. But being in such a bad neighborhood, I am not sure that there are many good business owners who would want to have their business there. As one who would like to have a business in the future, I know I would not have my business in a crime-ridden neighborhood.

justmwa wrote on June 07, 2012 at 10:06 am

I agree. A good business would only get robbed at this location.

vonbino wrote on June 07, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Good Food?  They already have the best Itilian Beef in town!!!

rsp wrote on June 07, 2012 at 3:06 pm

How about fresh fruit, fresh vegetables?

amp wrote on June 07, 2012 at 11:06 pm

  

Utowner wrote on June 07, 2012 at 9:06 am

You have got to be kidding me...if you want to rid SE Urbana of crime go after the residents, not the businesses that contribute tax dollars.  What a waste of time and money.  I hope after Urbana basically destroys their business they let it set on Washington St. and rot (like the neighborhood around it) as a sign of how Urbana let this area get out of control and now they want to punish the landlords and business owners for the conduct of residents.  Want to fix the area around this intersection? Bring some heavy-handed police tactics (which there is no shortage of around here) and enforcement of loitering laws...which the area clear out...

rsp wrote on June 07, 2012 at 10:06 am

So as long as he pays some taxes he can conduct illegal activities at the store? 

keyboardcat wrote on June 07, 2012 at 10:06 am

As long as the store owners are paying the right people they can sell whatever they want and still stay out of trouble. They stop playing ball and suddenly we are seeing them raided and arrested for things that they have been openly legally selling for years, and we see other stores are selling the same products every day but don't get messed with.

What is "legal" and not legal is determined at random based on what will hold up in the court of public opinion, not the real actual law. They take a picture for the paper and make a big stink to make it look like they are cleaning up crime, but the cases will never hold up in court. The merchants have to pay to get their "illegal" merchandise back after the case is dismissed, and then life goes on as usual. Lather, rinse, repeat. It works as long people like some of these other commenters fall for the charade hook line and sinker every time. "Yay for cleaning up crime!" 

rsp wrote on June 07, 2012 at 12:06 pm

What is "legal" and not legal is determined at random based on what will hold up in the court of public opinion

What world do you live in? Do you think this arrest was based on public opinion? Maybe they took a poll to see how the public felt about selling alcohol to minors, or drug paraphernalia in the middle of a crime spot. Or maybe we all should just start selling alcohol to minors since they will pay taxes on it. 

keyboardcat wrote on June 08, 2012 at 9:06 am

Of course it was. Home Run is a bad place and bad people go there, so it's perfectly okay to arrest them for selling things that many other stores sell without incident. They weren't arrested for selling alcohol to minors either - that was a rumor from the comments. You may want to re-read the article. 

rsp wrote on June 08, 2012 at 7:06 pm

So you still insist that any charges have no legal basis, it was just because they don't like the people over there.

Utowner wrote on June 07, 2012 at 10:06 am

Yes, that is *exactly* what I said...  Jesus, you people need to learn to think outside of the lines you're fed by the police/media.  This one incident isn't going to fix this area.  Please see the comment below this one re: the 'feel good spectacle' the city created for a real understanding of how this will play out...

rsp wrote on June 07, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Nobody expects this to "fix" this area. A lot of things need to be done to fix this area. But we all got to start somewhere don't we. You can't go through the area without seeing that that corner is a major problem. He should be required to live on that corner. Maybe then he wouldn't want to do business like that. Instead he pockets the ilicit proceeds and goes to a safe neighborhood to live. 

justmwa wrote on June 07, 2012 at 10:06 am

I tried. I really tried to find reason in your "heavy handed" keyboard rant, but i failed to do so. If this business is contributing to the element that loiters around that business, then you're right, let it rot. Close it down and let it rot. You seem to have a negative opinion about law enforcement for doing their job.  Have a bad experience did you? Laws are laws and it's always the law breakers who're opposed to law enforcement. Because someone pays taxes, doesn't give them the right to break the law.

prideCU wrote on June 07, 2012 at 10:06 am

Looks like the owners were criminals too, huh? Good place to start is getting rid of crooked business owners.

amp wrote on June 07, 2012 at 11:06 pm

  

jdmac44 wrote on June 07, 2012 at 10:06 am

I'm so glad, because without a store to buy paraphernalia from, the drug addicts will stop craving and buying drugs to consume!  Yup, this will "clean up" Urbana! 

prideCU wrote on June 07, 2012 at 10:06 am

It will give the thugs somewhere else to hang out at least. I should be able to go to the gas station next door without feeling like I am going to get jumped. For god's sake! My elderly father almost got attacked by one of these thugs! Like someone else here said, it is usually the criminals who get defensive when another criminal gets caught.

NewVegas wrote on June 07, 2012 at 10:06 am

This has been happening, since.....they opened. Not to mention cashing checks with no proof of ID, and selling liquor to whoever. The bad part is that they will go next door to the other convienent mart. This only quiets the bugs, which will only move next door. Shut the block down and turn it into a factory.

EdRyan wrote on June 07, 2012 at 11:06 am

Someone was probably sent in undercover and was sold a product by an employee of the store explicitly for the purpose of consuming an illegal substance.

The smoke shop on Green St. probably has that same product but they make sure and sell it only for tobacco use.

 

 

Joe American wrote on June 07, 2012 at 11:06 am

Home Run Inn was a head shop?  I knew it attracted ne'er-do-wells but never realized why.

amp wrote on June 07, 2012 at 11:06 pm

  

jmh910 wrote on June 07, 2012 at 12:06 pm

It's always been common knowledge that they run a pretty shady business.  The drug paraphernalia they're selling is likely the exact same stuff that gets sold at the Smoke Shack under the guise of being for tobacco products. The reason they're in trouble is because they don't have a license to do it! Not cause the city is suddenly concerned that this business is contributing to the delinquent behavior of the locals. They want the $$ from that license and the further taxes it would be funneling in to the City of Urbana.


People can have the impression that this is about cleaning up the neighborhood; the reality is that these 'crimes' are $$ related. The city is getting screwed out of tax revenue from the sale of 'illegal' goods.  Shutting down Home Run wouldn't make the neighborhood any better, and the city knows that.  The unsavory characters who hang around the neighborhood aren't going to go hang out somewhere else because their favorite liquor store shut down.


 


 

LBrooks wrote on June 07, 2012 at 12:06 pm

First of all the "President" lives in Ironwood Circle, if only we could all be so lucky to afford a house out there. And this dirty, dark, and dank shop is located in one of the poorest areas in Urbana...huh you don't say. Isn't that how those sorts of things go anyways. They should be happy that this inspection hasn't brought to light the fradulent LINK/SNAP charges yet. It is amazing what you can buy in Home Run with a link card now a days. The only way you can fix any problem is to find the root, and a man that lives in a 300K + house that owns a shop in a below poverty neighberhood was a big red flag for everyone that was looking.

keyboardcat wrote on June 08, 2012 at 9:06 am

I agree. It's bound to cause some ire from the police department when a foreign convienience store owner lives on Ironwood Circle and the cops themselves cannot afford to.  

billbtri5 wrote on June 07, 2012 at 12:06 pm

"quality of life for the residents",  who do you think is buying the stuff ?....

amp wrote on June 07, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Please don't think that the "residents" are the only ones at Home Run buying the stuff. Sit back on a Friday night and look at their customers. Matter of fact wait until high school is back in. Kids come in from all over town and out of town to get their liquor, because they know they will not be asked for ID. This is not a fix, but maybe it will take a little while for the city to give them their liquor license back and the thugs will scatter through out the city. Yes, Phillips 66 is next door, but they don't allow half of the things that Home Run does. Maybe these thugs will head to Discount Gas on Mattis and University, which has gotten pretty scary in the last 2 years. But why should I care about that, because it's not my neighborhood!

DaTruuth wrote on June 07, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Hello Amp,

      I find it quite peculiar that you have commented on this article four times and seem to be praising Homerun's neighbor Phillips 66. May i mention the ridiculous accusations being made about what goes on in the store; which are completely untrue. I assure everyone, that the "thugs" you mentioned definitely DO NOT give the employees a hold of guns they have.  This comes from my experience as a frequent patron of the store.  While the actions described in this article are questionable,  there is absolutely NO NEED to bring up your so called "rumors" going against the employees and the managment of the store.  Im sure that the owners and their families have experienced enough damage and your negativity is not necessary to add to it.  This is coming from a man from South Side Chicago, where Homerun is the only establishment where I feel very much at home.  I do also believe putting the addresses of the individuals to be quite wrong.  I know these two from my visits to the store, and they are some of the nicest men I have ever come across while living in Urbana.  

~Da Truuth

amp wrote on June 07, 2012 at 11:06 pm

 

 

Chambanacitizen wrote on June 07, 2012 at 3:06 pm

It seems some people are confused about what is going on.  First of all, the details in the story say the items are used to smoke crack.  Commonly, this would include the "mini-roses", which come in a....of course....small, glass cylinder.  What are crack pipes? Small, glass cylinders.  The Smoke Shack on campus does not sell crack pipes.  So please stop confusing legal tobacco pipes with crack pipes disguised as rose containers.  Second, this is one of the worst areas in the cities...just drive by and you'll see. I lived 4 blocks from this store last summer.  I moved as soon as possible.  It is bad, that is a fact.  Third, LINK card fraud is rampant, and it seems to be worse over there.  When I lived near the store, I had to go there for quick sodas sometimes.  One situation I will never forget is a lady who had bought sodas, candy bars, and chips, whipped out her LINK card to pay for all the junk food.  The employee told her it didn't have enough on it.  She then pulled out ANOTHER card, and said "Oh, sorry, this is the one I meant to use."  What a piece of trash.  Finally, they have the best Italian beef in town? lol

PJ1977 wrote on June 07, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Things like this has been going on for a while even before homerun was there. Let's not blam homerun for all the crime activity that happens in that neighboor. The Smoke Shack sells drug paraphernalia it might not be to smoke crack with but they sell things for marijuana use. If they (urbana police)are really trying to crack down on the use of drugs and crime then none of the stores should be able to sell it. I think someone said it in their comment that the state is so called "cleaning up"the neighborhood now because they are not getting their "cut" like they feel they deserve. Closing down homerun will not stop the thugs or crime around that area its not the store its some of the people that live there and some people who come from other neighborhoods. That area has gotten terrible, I bet if homerun had a license to sell that stuff then this would of never happen. So what they can't sell liquor for 7 days do you really think that is going to stop people from going there, NO!!

rsp wrote on June 07, 2012 at 5:06 pm

They have to suspend it for seven days before they revoke it. To just revoke it would be to deny him due process. Then he could sue. So they have a hearing where he gets to claim he's innocent of all charges, or maybe he doesn't show up. Whatever. They are cleaning up that area because the people are tired of paying the price and covering up for the people who are committing the crimes. They are talking about what is going on and turning people in. Just like they have been getting the trash cleaned up off the ground, they are getting it cleaned up off the corner.

prideCU wrote on June 07, 2012 at 5:06 pm

It was more isolated to Ivahoe Estates and perhaps the other apartments. When Monicals was next door, we never worried about getting jumped when we went out for pizza. It clearly got worse on that street when the convenience store opened. It is stores like this that attract the druggies. Monical's sure did not. It was a family restaurant. But let's keep fighting the crime so that we clean up a once great area. It will happen. I predict more trouble heading for Home Run. There is a heck of a difference between crack paraphanilia than for pot. I mean, face it, clear glass pipes kinda give it away, doncha think? Closing down HR might not stop criminal activity, but it is a step in the right direction. Drug testing for welfare recipients is next. Sorry---or no I am not---that sounds mean, however, druggies should never live off of those of us who work hard to support our own families without living like lowlifes. And oh, don't like the "lowlife" comment? There are too many resources in this town to help those who have problems with drugs, but the lowlifes are those who do not WANT help, therefore, they earned the name.

opinionated8 wrote on June 07, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Does anyone recall the Mahomet couple who called police because of a drug deal gone wrong here? Oh but wait... It "wasn't a drug deal"... 

Local Yocal wrote on June 08, 2012 at 1:06 am
Profile Picture

1) When the two head shops on Campus were caught about 2 months ago selling synthetic marijuana, $60,000 worth seized, no arrests were made, no photo-op perp walk was done. Not a day of business was interrupted. Apples and oranges? Maybe.

2) The owners and perps in this case have the money to afford excellent legal representation. After the case is settled to about nothing, the owners get the license to sell "tobacco assessories", and resume liquor sales, then what?

3) On the 10 or so nights per year that police conduct bar checks on campus, it is routine for police to make 50-60 arrests for minors in possession. Never do the campus bars ever get shut down (Scott Cochrane on UnOfficial St. Pat's Day, '09, the rare exception) despite the 18 year old entry crap that is constantly abused, and the quality of life has deteriorated on campus.

4) The biggest problem I've been told about this particular area is the landlords who do no background checks to potential tennants, and agree to month-to-month leases. That has allowed for pedophiles, unemployed drug addicts/dealers, and unruly panhandlers to terrorize that block. Ironic that the policemen's preferred choice of recreation, The Silver Bullet, is just down the down the way from all this. 

Not sure what the above all adds up to, other than once again, another inconsistent policy by law enforcement. Even so, the legitimate families in the area who are trying to work their jobs and raise their families need to be empowered to rise up and tell the juveniles pretending to be adults to move along. Easier said, than done. Good discussion by everybody here however, since all have made some legitimate points to a complex issue.

keyboardcat wrote on June 08, 2012 at 10:06 am

Well said, excellent points. 

Brandon Booher wrote on June 08, 2012 at 7:06 am

The most ridiculous post to date illinitrucker....wow!  Sidenote - what beat-cop makes $130k!? 

 

Brandon Booher wrote on June 08, 2012 at 7:06 am

If you don't want these people in your stores, neighborhoods, etc...be realistic and construct a realistic plan of action.  Most businesses are going to have a "no loitering" policy and in certain areas police presence will keep certain groups confined to their comfort zone. For me the solution is simple, I don't care who shops in the stores in my neighborhood.  I'll assume everyone is a tax-paying citizen.  Those to choose sub-standard behavior in public will be dealt with by the police dept..  If you see something suspiscious, call the cops, aside from dropping a bomb on the area you're not going to clean everything up overnight.  It's going to take a consistent effort from community members. As far as my own personal choices to protect myself...guns in the house and people trained on how to use them.  If you enter you're not a tax paying citizen; you'll either be a new inmate at the Champaign County Hilton or a holder for a few JHP's. 

 

 

PJ1977 wrote on June 08, 2012 at 10:06 am

If they really want to clean up that area then they need to go through scottswoods apt, woodstone appt and those other appts by the stores and do background checks on everybody there. You be suprised what you would fine, maybe not and just start kicking people out. Or all together send the recker in there and close them down. The news paper even said that there haven't been any calls from the store just areas around the store. But to keep the families that are really working and trying to make a way for their families then lets clean the apartments up get the drug dealers, sex offenders and crimenals out of there. Again closing up homerun will not stop the crime over in that area. All the hanging outside of the store is just going  to move to the gas station next door or that laundry mat next to it. If you ever driven down the street you see people all the time hanging outside those apartments all times of the day. Although those men "allegedly"sold drug paraphernalia wich if found guilty then they should be held responsiable for their actions but I've heard they have help some of the older residents. If they didnt have money to pay for things they let them have it or helped out with a resident who passed away furnal. And by the way I'm not a fan of their italian beef it's alright but not the best!

callyouout wrote on June 08, 2012 at 5:06 pm

i support this 100%. 

independent voter wrote on June 08, 2012 at 7:06 pm

i thought i read in the paper version they where selling a brown paper bag with a crack pipe brillo pad and a lighter and the transactions from these purchases where not being recorded correct me if im wrong but i believe thats what i read

illini_trucker wrote on June 09, 2012 at 1:06 am

I see my last comment was deleted.... the honest and blunt truth musta REALLY hurt!!!

DaTruuth wrote on June 09, 2012 at 8:06 pm

What was your comment sir?

Cstraight wrote on June 11, 2012 at 11:06 am

Glad to see the step-by-step instructions on how to make and smoke crack has been removed from the article. LOL

 

common_sense_isn't wrote on June 13, 2012 at 3:06 pm

You all are from URBANA.  Have you ever even seen a "bad neighborhood" or a "high crime area?"  Oh my goodness, I can't ride my bicycle to get fresh produce in that neighborhood on my way to book club after sundown!  Oh dearie me, what is this world coming to?  A year's worth of your "crime headlines" would be one day of second page news in some places.  Be grateful you live and raise your children in a town (notice I didn't say "city") that is so safe, and stop treating a convenience store selling some drug paraphernalia as a matter of national security.  

Brandon Booher wrote on June 14, 2012 at 7:06 am

Just because it's less or more than other areas doesn't mean the residents of Urbana have to put up with it.  For that matter no residents of any area should have to put up with it; it just so happens PERHAPS Urbana residents are a bit more vigilant/active. 

keyboardcat wrote on June 16, 2012 at 5:06 am

I love this comment.