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Six of 29 DeKalb stores sold tobacco to minors

DeKALB – Six local businesses failed tobacco compliance checks DeKalb police conducted Monday.

Clerks at Walgreens, 100 W. Lincoln Highway; Lucky’s Tobacco, 116 E. Hillcrest Ave.; DeKalb Citgo, 705 E. Lincoln Highway; Huskies Tobacco, 1023 W. Hillcrest Ave.; DeKalb Shell, 308 N. 7th St.; and DeKalb Amoco, 920 W. Lincoln Highway; were charged with selling tobacco to a minor.

DeKalb police Lt. Carl Leoni said the department worked with 16-year-old students to enter 29 establishments across the city to see if they check a person’s identification before selling them cigarettes. Leoni said the decoy is not allowed to lie about his or her age.

“It’s up to the retailer whether to sell to them,” Leoni said.

In order to pass the compliance check, the retailer has to refuse to sell them cigarettes, Leoni said. DeKalb police do these checks three times a year.

Those charged were Adam T. Whitwell, 22, of the 200 block of John Street in DeKalb; Maddui Prasanth, 23, of the 900 block of Ridge Drive in DeKalb; Marisol Hernandez Arraiga, 29, of the 600 block of Spring Avenue in DeKalb; Patrica J. Garcia, 21, 2500 Alpha Court West in DeKalb; Irfan Ahmed Mohammed, 23, of the 900 block of Ridge Drive in DeKalb; and Diwakar Deva, 22, of the 900 block of Ridge Drive in DeKalb.

Leoni said the clerks are handed a ticket and a court date. The maximum penalty for the violation is $500.

Leoni noted the number of violations fluctuate between compliance checks. The six stores that failed their checks Monday passed them in November, while the two that failed in November passed this time around.

DeKalb Amoco manager Sunny Sharma said it is not store policy to sell cigarettes to minors. He described the incident as being a honest mistake, and that it was the second compliance check his store has failed in 12 years.

“The guy was new,” Sharma said. “Sometimes you feel this person is OK and he didn’t ask [for an ID].”

Tushar Badel, the manager of DeKalb Shell, also chalked the incident up to a mistake. He also noted it is their first violation in a long time.

Leoni said there have been instances in which people have “brain freezes” when looking at a person’s ID or simply calculate the wrong age.

“I’m sure they are not out there trying to cause havoc with our teenagers,” Leoni said. He added that while the store owner might take his or her job seriously, an employee might not.

Leoni said it is up to the city attorney’s discretion whether to fine the retailer itself or to take other action. City Attorney Dean Frieders did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

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