Two Tenderloin markets openly help drug dealers ply their trade and resell stolen goods, city officials alleged Monday in civil lawsuits intended to shut the operations.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera called Barah's Market at 200 Leavenworth St. and Razan Deli at 391 Ellis St. “two of the most egregious violators of the public trust,” in a news conference with Police Chief Greg Suhr at a ragged Tenderloin corner. Herrera said police received 182 calls for service related to rampant drug sales and other illegal activity at both locations in 2011.
Across the street, Barah's Market employees agreed that drug sales and other crimes are a neighborhood problem, but insisted they had no part in it. Hashem Algahim said dealers run inside his shop when police show up, sometimes stealing his wares or offering him stolen goods.
“What can I do?” he lamented.
But the suits accused the shops of being a “safe haven” for dealers, citing undercover operations in which officers purchased heroin, oxycodone or crack cocaine directly outside or even inside the stores. In some instances, deli employees facilitated the sales and even provided the officers with pipes, one suit alleged.
The operation was aided by Walgreens, which provided merchandise for police to offer market employees. Undercover officers sold workers at both markets items they said were stolen from Walgreens, according to the lawsuits. In some cases, the suit alleged, the officers were told to return with more merchandise but without Walgreens tags.
Suhr said the vast majority of Tenderloin businesses run responsible operations.
“Ninety-nine percent of those businesses refused and/or threatened to call the police for even being asked to participate in what these two businesses were doing wholesale, every single day,” Suhr said.
The lawsuits allege violations of the California Drug Abatement Act, the Unfair Competition Law and other state and local laws. Prosecutors are seeking fines, the loss of all illegal profits and court orders to close the businesses for one year.
A sampling of the nearly 30 undercover operations at both shops:
Dec. 6, 2010: An undercover officer sells allegedly stolen Walgreens items to a Razan employee, who tells the officer to bring specific items next time. The next day, the officer sells those items to the worker. The next month, a store employee calls seeking more merchandise.
May 24, 2011: After buying more allegedly stolen merchandise from an undercover officer, a Razan worker agrees to sell the officer cigarettes and a crack pipe, and then asks if the officer needs drugs. The worker then arranges a purchase of crack cocaine from a dealer outside the store.
Nov. 29, 2011: An undercover officer is offered $1 each for allegedly stolen Walgreens items by a Barah's employee, who pointed to other items for sale and said to bring those the next time, without Walgreens stickers. Afterward, the officer buys heroin from two people in the front of store.
Dec. 20, 2011: An undercover officer sells more allegedly stolen goods at Barah's, then buys heroin outside the front door. Inside, the officer buys Vicodin for $15 from another dealer. Employees caution officer there is a camera inside the store.
Source: Court filings