December 18, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria wants to permanently shutter Shopway

ELYRIA — A police informant bought drugs and a cell phone at Shopway Food Mart after being given a receipt from Cakes, Candy and Flowers where the informant was sent to run a food stamp card, according to court documents filed Friday by the city asking a county judge to permanently shutter Shopway.

Elyria police were contacted by the Ohio Investigative Unit on March 8 to conduct a joint investigation on food stamp fraud that was suspected at Shopway as well as the nearby Cakes, Candy and Flowers. Police used the informant to purchase synthetic marijuana with an Ohio WIC card.

According to the motion, the informant told Mustafa there was a balance of $350 on the card, and he or she wanted to use it to purchase drugs and a cell phone. Mustafa allegedly told the informant to go to Cakes, Candy and Flowers to have them take $200 off the card and place it on an account with them and then to come back to Shopway with a receipt.

Police allege that Kitty Meszes, the owner of Cakes, Candy and Flowers, swiped the card for $200 and gave the informant a receipt. The informant was given the cell phone at Shopway and asked to return the next day to receive the spice.

The informant, who was outfitted with an audio and video recording device, returned to Shopway and then to Cakes, Candy and Flowers, where an unidentified employee refused to complete a transaction with the food stamp card. The informant told the employee the “other lady” had done it the day before, and during an argument with the employee, Meszes allegedly came from the back of the room and swiped the card for $145, providing the informant with a receipt.

The informant used the money to purchase synthetic marijuana and kept the remaining cash, according to police.

Meszes denied food stamp fraud had occurred at the store when contacted Tuesday, but she refused to comment further. She has not been charged, but police have said additional charges may be pending for Cakes, Candy and Flowers and Shopway employees.

The motion filed by the city came after a raid of both businesses by the Ohio Investigative Unit and Elyria police on Tuesday as a result of the ongoing investigation. The Shopway building has been condemned by the city because of electrical issues found after the raid.

At Shopway, officers found 12 EBT food stamp cards, four guns, synthetic marijuana, marijuana grinders with marijuana residue, dextroamphetamine and Percocet pills, digital scales and counterfeit hats, coats, cologne, wallets, Nike and North Face items, sunglasses and belts, according to a police report.

The court filing alleges that Shopway, which the Elyria Police Department has been involved with on numerous occasions, is a nuisance to the community.

On several occasions, police arrested individuals with drugs and drug paraphernalia at Shopway, and police allege that Shopway has repeatedly sold alcohol to minors and without a liquor license.

On May 18, Elyria police received a letter from the Ohio Liquor Control Commission informing them that Shopway’s liquor permit had been suspended. Police said confidential informants visited the store on May 31 and Aug.  22, and the informants were sold alcohol.

Two employees at the store — Thaer Mustafa and Hesham Ayyad — were arrested Tuesday as a result of the raid and charged with drug trafficking charges. Police allege that Mustafa, Ayyad and employee Michael Thrist have sold drugs to a confidential informant on multiple occasions.

On Feb. 25, police used the informant to purchase synthetic marijuana, or spice, from Shopway. According to a police report, the informant purchased the drug from Thrist and Ayyad, who were working that day.

Police said the informant, who was wearing a wire, asked the two about bath salts, and the men said they did not have any, but they were looking to get some.

Bath salts are a hallucinogenic recreational drug.

The informant returned to Shopway on Feb. 27 and was allegedly sold spice again. Police said Thrist told the informant he did not have marijuana, but the store would let the informant know when they had some.

A hearing on the city’s nuisance complaint will be Friday before Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi.

The city of Elyria asked for judgment against the defendants for a preliminary and permanent injunction, to prohibit them from operating Shopway.

“Elyria has been immediately and irreparably harmed by the continuing operating of the business,” and that Shopway “constitutes a severe drain on Elyria’s police and monetary resources, and is a detriment to the health and welfare of its citizens, and the operation substantially interferes with public decency, sobriety, peace and good order,” according to the documents filed Friday.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.