RIVERDALE -- Despite a recent change of ownership, city officials are keeping a close eye on a smoke shop that has been the scene of several illegal incidents over the last year.
Riverdale police conducted an undercover investigation of Smokes 4 U 2, formerly The Smoke Shop, at 4062 Riverdale Road and uncovered the sale of spice as well as sales to underage minors.
"The Riverdale Police Department has had continuous contact and complaints about this business and its operations in Riverdale City," according to documents prepared by City Attorney Steve Brooks.
"Though they claim to be a 'smoke shop,' the bulk of their in-store product is paraphernalia often used for the consumption of illegal drugs.
"This has been an ongoing problem for years," he said. "It is not a good operation we want in the city if they are going to be breaking the law."
"The business sells items that can be used to introduce controlled substances, specifically marijuana, into the human body. The shop is selling psychotoxic chemicals to customers knowing the customer is intending to ingest the substance to alter their state of mind," according to police documents recently presented to the city council.
"The Smoke Shop has consistently violated state laws and city ordinances that constitute selling harmful substances to minors and the general public."
Police documents detail incidents including sales to underage minors on Aug. 23, 2010, and Nov. 23, 2010; advertising marijuana on Aug. 30, 2010, and May 14, 2011; an Oct. 20, 2010, discovery of leaves and an acetone chemical spray that could produce an intoxicating effect similar to spice; a Dec. 4, 2010, search warrant that uncovered the unlawful possession and sale of spice; the May 14, 2011, presence of a gambling machine; and a June 4, 2011, burglary in which the suspect admitted to stealing spice.
An undercover officer interacted with the store's manager, Amjed Abdulridha, on both June 15, 2011, and July 6, 2011, purchasing spice as well as products known as Pink Kitty and Funky Monkey.
Despite the label warning that the products are not for human consumption, "the manager told me what brands would get me highest and how best to ingest the substance," said Detective Casey Warren.
However, when a uniformed police officer located and asked to purchase the same products on July 7, 2011, "the manager stated they weren't for sale, and the products were for smell only."
Just a month after city staff visited the business and informed owner Hassan Mohammed Al Badri of their intent to possibly revoke his business license, the business was sold Aug. 12, 2011, to new owner Zainab M. Abdulridha.
Brooks sent a letter to the smoke shop Sept. 16 warning owners of the possibility the city would not approve the application for the new business license "based upon allegations of continued violations of state and local law."
Officers say there seems to be little change of inventory and employees even after the shop came under new ownership.
"It's still the same location, same materials and same operations, as near as we can tell," Brooks said.
"It may be a new owner and license, but the same employees who violate state law are still working there and running the store," Warren said.
And the store, while under operation of the new owner, was cited for selling tobacco to a minor.
Because only one underage sale has occurred since the change of ownership, the city council voted to allow the new owner a temporary business license until January 2012.
"If you are going to keep breaking the law, we won't put up with it any more," Brooks told owner Zainab M. Abdulridha and her husband, Jafar. "We will shut you down."
Speaking for his wife, Jafar admitted to only visiting the store twice since purchasing it and promised to keep a better presence. He said he does not approve of selling spice or "synthetic urine," used to pass drug tests.
"I don't know why you are targeting us. The previous owner has nothing to do with me or my wife. I am just trying to make a living here," he said.
"I don't believe in spice or incense. If I ever sold to a minor, I will take the punishment. Close my store and give me a ticket."
Jafar, a Salt Lake City resident, agreed to signing an agreement with the city that the shop would not sell to underage minors, nor sell spice or mind-altering substances.