June 28, 2016

Partly sunny

Shopway to remain open until judge’s decision

ELYRIA — Shopway Food Mart, 175 Lake Ave., will remain open until Judge Jim Miraldi makes a decision on the store’s fate.

Shopway Food Mart on April 5.

Shopway was temporarily closed after a police raid of the store April 2, when building inspectors found electrical issues that needed repaired.

Building Department official Kevin Brubaker said those issues have since been corrected after the building owner, Ali Alawi, hired a licensed contractor to complete the work needed.

“Outside of that, that’s the only reason they were closed,” Brubaker said.

Miraldi said Wednesday he was waiting for legal briefs from attorneys for the city of Elyria and Shopway before any decision would be made, but in the meantime, Shopway could remain open.

Miraldi said it is very unusual to shutter a business before a formal hearing, as the city’s attorneys, Scott Serazin and Erik Breunig, have suggested. They are seeking a preliminary restraining order against the store owners, alleging that the shop is a nuisance to the community.

“It gets so bad that people in the area are afraid to leave their houses at all hours of the day,” Serazin said during a hearing Friday at Lorain County Court of Common Pleas.

As a result of the April 2 raid, officers confiscated 12 EBT food stamp cards, four guns, synthetic marijuana, marijuana grinders with marijuana residue, dextroamphetamine and Percocet pills, digital scales, counterfeit hats, coats, cologne, wallets, Nike and North Face items, sunglasses and belts, according to a police report.

Employees Thaer Mustafa and Hesham Ayyad were arrested. Ayyad was charged with counterfeit controlled substance and two counts of possession of drugs, and Mustafa was charged with three counts of counterfeit controlled substance and two counts of possession of drugs.

Additional charges could be pending from the Ohio Investigative Unit.

Michael Stepanik, Shopway’s attorney, argued Friday that the city failed to prove his clients — Hesham Ayyad, Thaer Mustafa and Michael Thrist — had knowingly done anything illegal, however.

The guns police confiscated during the raid April 2 were legally owned by the businessmen, according to police testimony. And Elyria Police Detective Michael Fairbanks said two lab tests of “spice,” or synthetic marijuana, that was confiscated from the store did not test positive for illegal substances, although two other tests completed at another lab did test positive for illegal substances.

Stepanik said Friday that Ayyad, Mustafa and Thrist may not have known that selling spice was illegal because the drug is deceptively marketed. Serazin countered that the men still sold the drugs to someone with a food stamp card, which is illegal.

In March, Miraldi granted a preliminary restraining order that barred Kush, the Broad Street establishment known to sell the illegal synthetic drug known as “bath salts,’’ from reopening. A hearing will be held at the end of April to determine if the order will be permanent.

Miraldi said a decision wouldn’t be made on Shopway until he had a chance to review the briefs and evidence, which may take two weeks.

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