URBANA — The owners of an Urbana convenience market and one of their employees have admitted that they had drug paraphernalia at their business in the spring.
Home Run Food Mart owners Jameel Alsaqri, 48, of the 4000 block of Danbury Drive, Champaign; his brother, Ramzi Alsqari, 50, of the 2300 block of Ironwood Circle, Champaign; and their employee Mahammed Mahmoud, 28, who listed an address in the 2400 block of High View Court, Champaign, all pleaded guilty Thursday in Champaign County Circuit Court to the misdemeanor offense of possessing drug paraphernalia.
The three were arrested in mid-May after a three-week investigation by the Urbana police department revealed that customers of the popular neighborhood foot mart at 1509 E. Washington St., U, could buy a bag containing a glass vial and a piece of copper mesh for $5 that the purchasers could then use to smoke crack cocaine.
In plea agreements, the men were sentenced to 18 months of probation, fined $2,600 each, and ordered to pay court costs stemming from their prosecution. In return, a more serious felony charge alleging the sale of the paraphernalia was dismissed.
Assistant State's Attorney Sarah Carlson laid out the facts for Judge Harry Clem, explaining that Urbana police used confidential sources to buy the glass pipes and pieces of "Chore Boy" scrubber from store clerks.
Based on those buys, police obtained a search warrant and on June 7 seized what Carlson said was "a large number of glass vials" and a "large amount of pre-cut Chore Boy," an item that was not regularly sold in the convenience store.
Police raided the business on June 7 and suspended its liquor license temporarily on that day. On June 20, the Alsaqris surrendered their liquor license for that property.
Their attorney, Ed Piraino of Champaign, said liquor commissioner Mayor Laurel Prussing had made it clear to him that she would likely strip them of the license so Piraino advised them to surrender it before a full hearing could be had.
Piraino said the planned demolition of some of the more rundown apartments in that neighborhood makes the prospect of a liquor license in that neighborhood less lucrative.
Carlson said none of the defendants had any prior criminal convictions.