State Alcohol Law Enforcement agents raided two convenience stores in Raleigh last week, winding up a sting operation in which an undercover agent had fenced hundreds of dollars worth of retail products for $35 to $45 after telling workers that he was trying to get rid of stolen merchandise.
At one store, the A and K Mini Mart at 717 E. Martin St., the sting piggybacked on an investigation ALE was already conducting into the illegal buying of Electronic Benefit Transaction (EBT) cards that the state distributes for the federal food-stamps program.
The agents wrapped up the operation Friday, arresting one person at the A and K and one at the Stop & Go at 2121 Garner Road. Both businesses hold Alcoholic Beverage Control licenses to sell beer and wine. A third person was arrested Tuesday.
The man listed in state records as holding the A and K’s ABC permits, Amer Khaleefeh Khamaiseh, 42, who lives on Swans Rest Way in Raleigh, was charged in the sting.
A worker at the Stop & Go, Mohammed Manga, 23, of Bayside Court in Raleigh, also was charged in the stolen-goods investigation.
An A and K worker, Alieu Camara, 40, who lives on Avenida Del Sol in Raleigh was charged with 32 felony and misdemeanor offenses stemming from both the EBT and the fencing investigations.
Khamaiseh and Manga were charged with receiving goods they had been told were stolen, possessing those goods and allowing illegal activity on a licenses premises.
According to arrest warrants sworn out by ALE agents, an undercover informant working for them went into the A and K on Jan. 11 and sold Camara two EBT cards.
Camara, the charges said, paid the informant $220 for the cards that were worth between $500 and $1,000 for buying food.
The arrest warrants said that the informant sold Camara three more cards for $400 in February and three more for $420 in March.
ALE did not disclose how they believe the cards were being used.
However, a law enforcement source said someone who paid less than face value for a card could use it to buy the full value worth of food for themselves, a law enforcement source said. A store owner could use them to buy products at other stores to stock his own, the source added.
Using cards connects the user to government computers, and eight felony counts of accessing a government computer to defraud accused Camara of conducting illegal EBT transactions.
Camara also was accused of three counts of illegally buying, selling or distributing food stamps; eight counts of illegal possession or use of food stamps, and five misdemeanor counts of allowing illegal activity to occur on a premise that holds an ABC permit to sell beer and wine.
Most of the charges against Camara were contained in arrest warrants sworn out the day he was taken into custody. Two more charges were added Tuesday while he was in jail.
The investigation into stolen goods being fenced at the stores began with information from Raleigh police in August that convenience stores possibly were being used for that, the ALE said in asking for search warrants that agents obtained for the stores.
Arrest warrants for Camara said that an undercover agent went into the store on Aug. 22 and Sept. 22 with a variety of retail products that included razor blades, earphones, deodorant, energy drinks, infant formula and shampoo.
The search warrant for the Stop & Go said the same agent visited there Sept. 22.
The retail prices of the items the agent was offering to sell totaled between $240 and $500 each time, the agents said when they described the sting to a Wake County magistrate in order to get the search warrants.
The agent sold them for between $25 and $45.
In the A and K, ALE said, the agent told Camara and Khamaiseh that the products he was offering had been stolen.
At the Stop & Go, they wrote, the agent said he was trying to unload stolen merchandise and Manga asked, “All of this for $25?”
Hearing the agent’s story, Manga then said, “I’ll take it!” according to the search warrant application.
ALE agents went to both stores on Sept. 25 and said they were conducting routine inspections because the stores have alcohol licenses. In both places, they saw items the undercover agent had sold, they told the magistrate.
They went into the A and K and the Stop & Go with the search warrants on Sept. 29, seizing evidence and arresting Camara and Manga.
Khamaiseh was freed on bail. Manga was being held in lieu of $10,000 and Camara in lieu of $230,000.