An investigation centered on a Mountain View neighborhood market led to prosecutors submitting 221 costs towards 22 folks — retailer clerks and alleged gang members — who authorities say used the enterprise as a entrance for drug gross sales, officers introduced Monday.
The aim of the operation was to dismantle what Deputy District Legal professional Robert Hickey described as a “crime den.”
“We is not going to stand by whereas companies accomplice with gang members to perpetuate violence in our neighborhood,” Hickey stated throughout a day information convention on the San Diego Police Division’s headquarters.
He and different officers famous that Mike’s Market has been the location of drug offers, shootings and different violence.
Police and prosecutors allege clerks at Mike’s Market on Ocean View Boulevard joined forces with documented gang members in a scheme to transform cash on Digital Advantages Switch playing cards — much like debit playing cards — into money for patrons. EBT playing cards are supposed to assist individuals who obtain public help purchase meals.
The clerks then pocketed a number of the cash whereas prospects used the remaining to purchase medication, prosecutors stated.
They stated the income from the drug gross sales allowed gang members to buy weapons, which have been utilized in crimes, corresponding to shootings.
Prosecutors allege two clerks pocketed almost $2 million in meals help advantages, though they didn’t say over what time period. The indictment outlines a number of cases through which the defendants allegedly dedicated the grand theft and drug gross sales between June and August.
Hickey stated the scheme took benefit of “folks with meals wants” and drug addictions.
“They’re poisoning our neighborhood by advantage of pumping medication into the streets of Mountain View,” Deputy District Legal professional Miriam Hemming stated, including that the income are “perpetuating that cycle of gang violence that outcomes not simply in murders but in addition in numerous shootings.”
Fourteen of the defendants pleaded not responsible Monday in San Diego Superior Court docket to varied costs. Lots of the costs within the case embody drug gross sales and grand theft from the U.S. Division of Agriculture, which manages meals advantages packages.
“As we speak’s arraignments are proof that this metropolis is not going to tolerate violence or crime,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria stated.
He and San Diego police Chief David Nisleit stated the investigation got here in response to requires motion from residents who stated they have been on edge over the violence round Mike’s Market.
Previously 12 months, two males have been fatally shot in entrance of the shop: 27-year-old Jimmie Lee Roberts III and 34-year-old Dorian Franklin. A 3rd man — Rahman Thomas, 59 — was fatally shot a block away.
“Folks don’t really feel protected of their properties or strolling within the streets of their neighborhood,” Nisleit stated. “To the neighborhood, we heard your considerations loud and clear.”
Gloria echoed the chief’s feedback. He stated he, Nisleit and Metropolis Council President Sean Elo-Rivera, whose district contains Mountain View, met with residents within the spring and promised to take motion.
“Right here we’re to ship on that promise,” the mayor stated.
Residents beforehand informed the Union-Tribune that Mike’s Market attracts crowds and violence.
“It’s a place the place gang members congregate as a result of they’re working hand in hand with the clerks to facilitate narcotics transactions all through the day,” Hickey stated Monday. “It’s a place that had turn into a protected haven for criminals. No extra.”
The investigation started in July and lasted roughly a month and a half, Hemming stated.
Hickey stated a grand jury heard proof over the course of eight days and returned the 221-count indictment Oct. 20.
San Diego police and different legislation enforcement businesses served search warrants and arrest warrants final week at a number of properties throughout the county as a part of the investigation. The defendants’ ages vary from 20 to 62, in line with the indictment.
Seven of the defendants have been at massive as of Monday afternoon, and officers stated the investigation was ongoing.
Mike’s Market stays open. Officers stated the Metropolis Legal professional’s Workplace could take nuisance abatement actions towards the shop. The workplace didn’t instantly reply to questions on any potential actions.
The violence within the space has led to different steps to root out the issue. In Could, a church throughout the way in which from Mike’s Market opened an on-site neighborhood middle that gives varied sources to neighborhood members, together with a meals financial institution. The hope is to interrupt cycles of violence and hold younger folks off the streets.