December 18, 2014

Elyria
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Three Elyria stores charged with conspiracy, drug trafficking

 

CT photo by Bruce Bishop.

Shopway Food Mart on Lake Avenue was raided in April 2013. The store was one of three businesses indicted on drug trafficking and conspiracy charges. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

ELYRIA — Three Elyria stores have been indicted on conspiracy, drug trafficking and other charges.

Two of the stores, Cakes, Candy and Flowers and the now-closed Shopway Food Mart, were searched during an April 2013 raid that also focused on allegations the two stores were engaged in food stamp fraud.

Cakes, Candy and Flowers, which is run by Kitty Meszes, the daughter of former Lorain County Commissioner Mary Jo Vasi, is charged with trafficking in drugs, theft and two counts of conspiracy. Meszes, who could not be reached for comment Monday, has not been personally charged with a crime and has previously denied involvement with food stamp fraud.

Shopway is charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, offenses involving counterfeit controlled substances, theft, two counts of conspiracy and three counts of trafficking in drugs.

Those are the same charges already being faced by Thaer Mustafa, who ran both Shopway and IMT Wireless and More, the third company named in the indictments. IMT is charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and two counts each of conspiracy and gambling.

Elyria police Capt. Chris Costantino said the charges against the companies are a direct result of a joint investigation between local police and state investigators.

According to court documents filed last year as part of the city’s nuisance lawsuit against Shopway, an informant went to Shopway last year and told Mustafa that he or she wanted to use a food stamp card, also known as an EBT card, with a balance of $350 to purchase drugs and a cell phone.

Mustafa then sent the informant to Cakes, Candy and Flowers to run the card and place it in an account at that store before returning to Shopway, according to court documents

When the informant went to the cake shop, Meszes allegedly swiped the card for $200 and gave the informant a receipt. According to court documents, the informant then returned to Shopway and was given a cell phone and told to come back the next day to pick up spice, an outlawed form of synthetic marijuana.

The informant, who was wearing a wire, reportedly later returned to Shopway and Cakes, Candy and Flowers, where an employee refused to use the EBT card to complete a transaction. The dispute drew Meszes from a back room and she swiped the card for $145, according to court documents.

The informant then used the receipt at Shopway to obtain synthetic marijuana and cash, according to the court filings. During the 2013 raid, Mustafa and another Shopway worker were arrested, but no one from Cakes, Candy and Flowers was charged.

The conspiracy between Shopway and Cakes, Candy and Flowers allegedly took place between 2012 and 2013, according to the indictments.

Only a few months after the Shopway raid, Mustafa opened IMT Wireless in downtown Elyria, but police allege that he continued his criminal enterprise there.

Costantino said that police raided the cell phone store in December after receiving complaints about gambling and counterfeit clothing being sold there. Police also found items associated with drugs and drug trafficking inside the store during the December search.

Michael Stepanik, Mustafa’s attorney, said he was surprised to learn his client’s companies had been indicted given that Mustafa is already facing charges. He also questioned why it took more than a year after the Shopway raid, which was sparked by alleged crimes reportedly caught on video, to bring charges against the store.

“I’m just wondering what the purpose of this is,” Stepanik said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.