Arnold neighbors want Stop-N-Go store gone
By Liz Hayes
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013, 12:56 a.m.
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Arnold residents want the Arnold Stop-N-Go convenience store to live up to its name.
“If they would stop and go away, that would be fine,” said Susan Fernandes, whose Kenneth Avenue home is behind the Constitution Boulevard store that twice in the past four months has been raided for alleged sales of synthetic marijuana.
Fernandes and her husband, Rey, were joined by several neighbors at Tuesday's council meeting to ask city officials to find a way to shut down the business that's about a year old.
In addition to the alleged drug sales, residents said excessive littering and loitering from customers have been an ongoing problem in the neighborhood. They said customers, especially youths, have been disrespectful and threatening.
The report that guns were seized from the business added another layer of fear to their concerns.
“We're a bit perplexed and concerned that they've been raided twice and they're still open,” Susan Fernandes said.
Arnold Solicitor John Pallone and police Chief Willie Weber said the process of closing a business is lengthy and complicated.
Weber said just gathering the evidence to raid and charge the operators of the store with alleged drug sales was complex due to the relative novelty of synthetic marijuana, also called K2 and Spice.
Weber said police began making undercover buys of the alleged illicit drug last spring, but found that initial samples did not exactly match the legal description of synthetic marijuana.
They had to keep gathering samples before they had enough evidence to justify the October raid that allegedly netted 50 pounds of the drug.
Backlog at the lab
The chief said they also had difficulty finding a laboratory capable of analyzing the samples. Because the lab was inundated with other samples of alleged drugs, it also took time to get the results back.
Weber said it wasn't until the last week that police could charge store operators Seif Suleiman Shuman and his brother, Muhannad Suleiman Shuman, both of Monroeville. Police issued a warrant for a third brother, Mohammad Suleiman Shoman, who authorities believe may be out of the country.
Now that drug-related arrests have occurred on the property, Weber said police can put the owners on notice that any additional charges there could result in the forfeiture of the property.
Residents questioned why New Kensington officials were able to quickly close the Hill Top Mart on Seventh Street, which also was under investigation for alleged sales of synthetic marijuana. Weber said he believed the owner of the building forced the tenant to close the store.
“It's not a quick fix,” Weber said.
Officials said attorney Duke George owns the Arnold Stop-N-Go property.
Weber said George was cooperating with Arnold officials' request that a fence be installed along the back of the store property to help prevent customers from loitering in the alley behind the store. The Fernandeses and their neighbors said patrons have caused damage to and trespassed on Kenneth Avenue properties.
Reached by phone late Tuesday, George confirmed he was willing to work with the city on installing a fence but was unaware of any other concerns.
“Nobody has contacted me,” George said.
George couldn't say whether he would consider evicting the store's operators, at least two of whom he is representing in relation to the drug charges.
Arnold officials acknowledged the residents' frustration and asked for their patience while the legalities are handled.
“We're trying to fix what turned into an unsavory situation,” said Pallone, referencing the city's excitement a year ago when the new business opened on what had been a vacant lot.
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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"George couldn't say whether he would consider evicting the store's operators, at least two of whom he is representing in relation to the drug charges." What a conflict of interest....
Submitted by: Justice on Wednesday, February 13, 2013
The criminal defense attorney owns the building where his clients are tenants? This must be the new way of ambulance chasing in the 21st century! Defense attorneys really only care about one thing, and thats the money they get from defending these criminals.