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October 23, 2014

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Licenses revoked from businesses bit in Metro stolen goods sting

The Las Vegas City Council cracked down Wednesday on two downtown convenience stores accused of selling stolen goods, revoking their licenses and fining the owners several thousand dollars each.

Metro Police began investigating E Z Market, 1109 Stewart Ave., in March after several reports the store was selling goods bearing stickers from other local retailers like Albertsons and CVS.

Over several months, store employee Nabiail Dhalai bought cigarettes and bottles of liquor from undercover Metro Police officers at a steep discount from wholesale prices, with the implication that the goods were stolen, authorities said.

The goods, which were marked and had been donated to the police department for sting operations, later showed up on store shelves, according to a disciplinary complaint presented to the council during its Wednesday meeting.

During the investigation, undercover officers were told by Dhalai that M R Beauty Supply & 99 Cent Store, 1935 Fremont St., also might be interested in purchasing some of the goods, the complaint said.

The owner of M R Beauty, Mazen Hamou, also was involved with Dhalai in the operation of E Z Market, which the two leased and planned to buy from previous owner Goitom Hailu.

Separate police searches of E Z Market and M R Beauty in June turned up numerous items believed to be stolen, including liquor and grocery store goods ranging from canned soups to deodorants bearing the tags of other stores in town, the complaint said.

Hamou, Dhalai and Hailu were brought before the city council Wednesday and presented with the findings against them by city attorney Brad Jerbic, who called witnesses from Metro Police and the city’s business licensing department to testify.

“I don’t think a case gets more obvious than this,” Jerbic said. “There’s overwhelming evidence.”

During the two-hour hearing, Dhalai and Hamou admitted to buying liquor and cigarettes from unlicensed distributors.

“It was a mistake. I was wrong. It was a dumb move,” Dhalai said.

Hailu maintained that he merely leased the business to the two men and was not heavily involved in its operation.

After hearing Jerbic’s presentation and questioning the three men, the council took swift action to revoke the business licenses needed to operate E Z Market and M R Beauty.

“I truly believe through the facts that have been presented by detectives, business licensing and comments made here today, none of you gentlemen should be in a position to have such a privileged license,” Councilman Ricki Barlow said.

In addition, Dhalai, Hailu and Hamou were fined $5,000 each for their involvement with E Z Market. Hamou, the sole defendant in the action brought against M R Beauty, was fined an additional $36,000 for violations at that business.

All three will be able to re-apply for business licenses after one year, provided their fines have been paid.

Hamou also faces felony criminal charges for attempted possession of stolen property. A jury trial is scheduled in June in Clark County District Court.

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