Stillwater police shut down Tobacco Market at 2040 Market Drive Feb. 3, after the store lost its tobacco license for failing three compliance checks in less than a year.
“It’s pretty straightforward here,” Police Sgt. Jeff Stender said. “They were operating without a license.”
That means they were selling tobacco illegally.
The manager on duty, named Mohammed Wazwaz, and a 16-year-old clerk were arrested on suspicion of selling tobacco without a license. Wazwaz was taken to Washington County Jail, where he was held pending formal charges. The juvenile was released to a responsible party.
Tobacco Market failed its third compliance check Nov. 19 when police say an employee sold tobacco to a minor. The presumptive penalty is license revocation and a $250 fine.
Store owner Yassin Waleed Wazwaz, appealed the license revocation, which was reviewed at an administrative hearing Jan. 7. Yassin Wazwaz did not appear personally at the hearing, but his lawyer, Murad Mohammad, appeared on his behalf.
On Jan. 14, the hearing officer issued a decision upholding the license revocation. After the decision was issued, Wazwaz had 10 days to appeal the decision to the city council. He did not do so, Stender said.
Police reports indicate that after the store was shut down, owner Yassin Wazwaz told police he had a valid license because his lawyer had filed an appeal of the hearing officer’s decision. When contacted by an officer, police reports say, the lawyer told police he may have filed an appeal with and administrative law judge, and an officer informed him that by city code the appeal had to be made to the city council. Because that had not happened, the store would remain closed.
The lawyer, Murad Mohammad, disputed this part of the police account, however.
“We did not file an appeal, and we have never suggested we have,” Mohammad said in an email.
Stender said he believes that in order to legally sell tobacco at the store again, Wazwaz would need to reapply for a tobacco license and receive approval from the city council.
Police also obtained a search warrant and, according to police reports, a search of the store revealed a missing ceiling tile in the stock room, which led to a crawl space above the store. In the crawl space, police found numerous bagged and sealed containers of tobacco and tobacco-related products, as well as an empty rifle case.
Yassin Wazwaz did not return a call for comment.
Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]