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Liquor store owner apologizes

January 22, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The owner of a Hagerstown liquor store on Wednesday apologized to Washington County liquor officials for several incidents last year in which former employees were alleged to have used the business as a front to sell marijuana and cocaine.

Sovann Najoe Chum, owner of Universal Liquors at 33 E. Franklin St., told the Board of License Commissioners for Washington County, known as the liquor board, that he was unaware of any drug activity.

He apologized to the liquor board, saying that the employees accused of selling the drugs no longer work there.

Shelton Jamaal Parker, 22, of 222 Summit Ave., Apt. B, Hagerstown, was charged with two counts each of distribution of cocaine, possession of cocaine, possession of drug paraphernalia and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

Eligio Jesus Vera Duarte, 24, of 9 W. Franklin St., Hagerstown, was charged with one count each of distribution of cocaine, possession of cocaine, possession of drug paraphernalia and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

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The charges were filed against Parker and Duarte on Dec. 12, according to court records. Their court dates are scheduled for next month.

Officers who participated in the investigation alleged to the liquor board that audio surveillance taken inside Universal Liquors in December recorded an undercover officer buying drugs from Parker and Duarte. The officers alleged that authorities used audio and video surveillance to record a man, who remains at large, selling marijuana to an informant at the store in July.

Frank Toston, an agent with the Washington County Narcotics Task Force, said task force agents and officers from the Hagerstown Police Department used the evidence to obtain a search warrant and went to Universal Liquors on Dec. 11.

Toston said agents found a scale, which they believed was used to weigh drugs, and Inositol, a substance that is used to cut cocaine.

Alan Greenwald, who identified himself as a downtown property owner, told the liquor board that he believed Universal Liquors should move out of the neighborhood because the store attracted a bad element.

Robert L. Everhart, liquor board chairman, said Universal Liquors could be ordered to surrender its liquor license and pay a maximum $2,500 fine. The board will make its decision within 30 days, Everhart said.

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