Five Mobile County merchants charged with trafficking in contraband cigarettes

(IMAGE: MGN) Five Mobile County merchants charged with trafficking in contraband cigarettes

Some local business owners are behind bars tonight for illegally purchasing and selling tobacco products.

Smash and grab thieves have been targeting local businesses, and a massive police undercover operation has helped shut it down.

"This business will be padlock shut," says Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste.

Take a drive down St. Stephens Rd. and you'll find the Ride with Pride gas station boarded up.

A temporary restraining order has been issued, because the owner knowingly purchased stolen packs of cigarettes numerous times.

"He will be facing charges," says Chief Battiste.

Five others were also charged with trafficking contraband cigarettes.

This raid comes after nearly a year's worth of investigating.

"Over the last 11 months, we have had nearly 100 part 1 crimes committed in this geographical area. We have made over 30 purchases of controlled substances in this area and we have made numerous drug arrests, so the owners should have known about the illegal activity that was taken place at this location," says Chief Battiste.

They've been trying to catch these crooks who would break into multiple businesses, grab tobacco products then turn around and sell them to mom and pop stores.

"We identified at least 21 Dollar Generals that had been impacted by them breaking into them doing smash and grabs and stealing cigarettes out of them. Hopefully, we will lessen the impact the burden of those types of businesses being broken into," Chief Battiste adds.

All the suspects arrested in the cigarette raid appeared in Federal Court late Tuesday.

All were appointed public defenders and released from custody.

In the court filings a second store was identified, the Quick Stop Grocery located at 353 Cody Road.

According to the indictment of Shameka Mallory and Shahid Abassi would buy multiple cartons of cigarettes and then sell the contraband (they had no State of Alabama Tax Stamp) cigarettes to people at the Quick Stop Grocery.

All the suspects were indicted by a federal grand jury in July 2018.

Only Thy Touch has a trial set already, January 3, 2019.

The U.S. Department of Justice released this statement:

United States Attorney, Richard W. Moore, of the Southern District of Alabama announces that five area merchants and an employee of one of the merchants were indicted for violations of Title 18 United States Code, Section 2342(a), trafficking in contraband cigarettes.

They include, Thy Touch, a 45-year old resident of Mobile, Alabama; Reginald Lyons, a 43 -year-old resident of Mobile, Alabama; Sakhoeuth Khan, a 33-year-old resident of Mobile, Alabama; Khalil N Al-Mashni, a 51-year-old resident of Mobile, Alabama; Shahid Abassi, a 42-year-old resident of Mobile, Alabama; and Shameka Mallory, a 39-year-old resident of Mobile, Alabama.

Upon conviction, each would face a maximum penalty of five years of incarceration, a fine of $250,000 and a supervised release term of three years.

United States Attorney Moore stated, “We appreciate the very aggressive and thorough job done by both the ATF and the Mobile, Alabama Police Department in making these cases. Our prosecutor, Gina Vann, has coordinated the prosecution efforts on these cases which I very much appreciate. Trafficking in illegal contraband of any kind hurts honest businesses that follow the law. I am encouraging all our law enforcement partners to be on the lookout for these kinds of crimes that undermine our economy. We will prosecute these cases to the fullest extent of the law.”

ATF Special Agent in Charge, Marcus Watson, also remarked, “ATF’s partnerships with law enforcement and the community are an effective tool in enforcing our mission.”

An indictment is a determination by a grand jury that there is probable cause to believe that offenses have been committed by a defendant. A defendant, of course, is presumed innocent until and unless he or she is proven guilty at trial.

Mobile Police released the following:

Following an 11-month investigation on the illegal sale of cigarettes, six arrests were made and a Temporary Restraining Order to shut down one business was issued. The Mobile ATF Field Office opened the investigation to assist the Mobile Police Department combat an increase in commercial store burglaries in which large quantities of cigarettes were taken.

Several stores, namely Dollar General, had been broken into where numerous cartons of cigarettes were stolen. Through the undercover operations, police identified five convenience stores that were buying the stolen cigarettes and reselling them to the general public. They include Quick Stop (375 Cody Road North), Spring Hill Quick Stop (2800 Spring Hill Avenue), Pride (1910 St. Stephens Road), Mitchell Brothers (1300 Arlington Street), and Two Lions (763 Summerville Street).

The six individuals that were arrested today, Nov. 6, are the employees and /or business owners associated with the above locations. They include 42-year-old, Shadid Abbasi, 39-year-old Shameka Mallory, 50-year-old Khali Al-Mashni, 45-year-old Thy Touch, 43-year-old Reginald Lyons, and 33-year-old Sakhoeth Khan. Police arrested the suspects on indictments out of the Southern District of Alabama Court for Knowingly Receive, Possess, Sell, Distribute, and Purchase Contraband Cigarettes.

“We hope that these arrests will bring some end to the number of businesses we’ve had broken into for the purpose of stealing cigarettes and reselling them to mom-and-pop operations,” said Chief of Police Lawrence Battiste.

Officers executed the Temporary Restraining Order at the Pride gas station, 1910 St. Stephens Road, due to numerous complaints of criminal and drug activity. Nearly 100 Part I crimes such as robberies, assaults, burglaries and drug-related offenses had occurred in the geographical area of the store. And, drug arrests were continuously made in the gas station’s parking lot.

The Pride gas station property owner, Billy Bui Hill, was served a notice letter on December 26, 2017 advising of the drug nuisance, but he provided no response.

Thy Touch was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in May of 2013 and charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Synthetic Marijuana.

He enter a guilty plea in November 2013 and was placed on 5 years’ probation in March of 2014. According to these dates, he is still on Federal Probation for these charges.

According to plea agreement, Touch admitted that he sold “spice” out of the Two Dragons convenience store that he owned and operated in Prichard.

Sakhoeuth Khan has a previous arrest (2006) by Mobile Police for Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor. This case was in Mobile Municipal Court so adjudication information is not available.

Khalil Al-Mashni:

2000 and 2010 Furnishing Alcohol to Minor charges by Mobile Police (Mobile Municipal Court)

2012 and 2015 Possession of controlled substance (dismissed)

2016 Domestic Violence 3rd

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