RACINE — Representatives from Sunshine Supermarket, 1559 Taylor Ave., are due to appear in front of a city committee Tuesday because of a Racine Police Department sting operation that took place at the store on Sept. 15.
After using underage confidential informants to buy cigarettes and alcohol from the store, officers wrote the two working clerks 29 citations. During the sting, informants reported possible drug activity and the operation later had to be halted because informants were being harassed by drunken loiterers.
According to a recently released report, the officers who conducted the operation used eight confidential informants to make 19 illegal purchases from Sunshine from 7:40 p.m. to 9 p.m on Sept. 15.
The store’s manager, Mohammad Alabed, and two clerks, Vianca Martinez and Krystal Collazo, were present at the store throughout the operation and at no time during the 19 purchases did either of the clerks or Alabed request identification from the underage informants, according to the report.
Additionally, the report states that each informant made mention of “suspected drug activity” in the back area of the store and had a “distinct odor of burning THC on their clothing” when they returned to the surveillance vehicle after each purchase.
Martinez and Collazo routinely sold alcohol and both single cigarettes and open boxes of cigarettes to the informants, the report states. The alcohol purchases included Budweiser, multiple cans of Four Loko (a flavored malt beverage) and Redd’s Apple Ale.
All told, Martinez received 23 of the 29 citations written to the store, 11 for selling tobacco products to minors, six for selling loose cigarettes in non-sealed packaging and six for selling alcohol to minors. Collazo received the other six: Four for selling tobacco products to minors and two for selling loose cigarettes in non-sealed packaging.
The report also states that the officers had to suspend the operation at 9 p.m. because a group of people loitering outside the store had “become more aggressive.” The female informants “were targeted by loitering intoxicated males who attempted to talk to the females in a threatening manner,” according to the report.
Police interact with Alabed
After concluding the operation, the officers entered the store to obtain identification from the employees, but before they could, Collazo exited the store. Martinez gave police her photo ID and Alabed claimed he had no identification on him, but police identified him from past interactions, according to the report.
Alabed, who identified himself as the store manager to police, said he had “just hired” Collazo, even though one of the officers had identified Collazo at the store in June during a similar compliance check, according to the report. Police also said that Alabed initially said he wasn’t paying Collazo because she was in training, but then changed his mind to say that he was paying her but didn’t have paperwork or payroll information regarding her employment.
One of the officers asked Alabed if he had paperwork on any of his employees, at which point Alabed shuffled through papers without producing any identifying documents, according to the report.
Alabed also said the allegations of selling to underage persons were made up and changed his story multiple times, according to reports.
One of the officers returned to Sunshine on Sept. 19 in order to identify Collazo, who told him that she had “just started working” at the store, but couldn’t remember exactly when, according to the report. Police said Collazo told them she doesn’t get paid by the store but also isn’t volunteering her time.
According to the report, Alabed then approached the officer and Collazo and told the officer that Collazo makes $8 per hour and that she has an at-will schedule that usually includes working evenings. Police said Alabed then told the officer that Collazo makes $9 per hour and didn’t respond when pressed about the changed number.
The sting is the latest in a long history of police interaction with Sunshine, dating back to as early as 2000.
The Public Safety and Licensing Committee decided at its Oct. 11 meeting to call Sunshine’s registered agent Candace Ali in for a discussion. According to the agenda, that discussion will take place Tuesday during the committee’s 5:30 p.m. meeting at City Hall, 730 Washington Ave., in room 307.