3 local businesses closed down under nuisance laws - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

3 local businesses closed down under nuisance laws

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) - A citywide crackdown in Memphis on on drug dealing shut down three businesses in the past week. The businesses targeted include a tire shop, a hotel, and a grocery store.

The Governor's Inn and Suites on Mt. Moriah is accused of being a center for drug trafficking, prostitution and other crimes, Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich and Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said Friday.

The Millbranch Food and Grocery at 3647 Millbranch Road and the B'Well Express at 1785 Delano were also closed.

The hotel and the grocery were closed Wednesday. The Delano business was closed Friday. All allegedly allowed or promoted drug trafficking by employees or customers, according to lengthy investigations by the Memphis Police Department Organized Crime Unit and by the West Tennessee Drug Task Force.

MORE: Memphis hotel closed following drug raid

Police said that between January 2013 and March 2014 officers responded to 175 calls at the Governors Inn on complaints of robbery, aggravated assault, drug offenses, thefts, vandalism, weapons violations, burglary, motor vehicle theft and intimidation.

"Let this operation be a reminder to business owners that the Memphis Police Department is cognizant of criminal activity occurring in or near establishments," Armstrong said. "We are watching and we will continue to address those concerns which have a direct effect on quality of life for the citizens of this great city."

The nuisance petitions were submitted by Weirich and assistant district attorneys general Paul Hagerman and Chris Scruggs and signed by Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter.

The businesses will remain closed at least until a hearing set for 10:30 a.m. Monday morning before Judge Potter.

"It's everybody's right to run a business, but you need to run it in a respectable way," said Uncle Lou Martin, owner of Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken in Whitehaven.

Uncle Lou's is known across the world but his neighbor, the Millbranch Food and Grocery, is known to police. Several store owners started complaining to strip mall management and police that more than everyday business was going on.

"You may have a customer in line waiting to buy groceries and right behind them is a customer in line waiting to buy illegal drugs," DAG Weirich said.

Uncle Lou says even if the grocery store is allowed to reopen, the other businesses in this strip mall will be keeping a watchful eye.

"If you don't protect your business yourself, how do you expect somebody else to come in and help protect it for you," he said.

The petitions allege that: Millbranch Food and Grocery was the site of multiple undercover purchases of illegal drugs, including the purchase of marijuana inside the store from an employee. A six-month investigation showed that drug trafficking occurred over the counter and in front of numerous customers, including school-aged children. Employees at the store recently were cited for selling individual cigarettes and selling beer without a city permit.

This week officers seized 50 grams of khat, a leafy plant with mind-altering chemicals, a small amount of marijuana and a 9mm pistol. Arrest warrants have been issued.

B'Well Express, a tire business on Delano at Overton Crossing, has been the subject of numerous complaints of illegal narcotics use and sales dating to 2011. OCU officers said marijuana was purchased and used many times inside the business in plain view of customers and that large amounts of money, marijuana and digital scales also were readily visible to visitors. Business was so brisk that marijuana buyers often had to stand in line to make their purchases.

The business is less than 500 feet from Delano Elementary School and drug trafficking often was openly conducted when school was letting out and children were walking through the B'Well Express parking lot. 

The business is also known as Boswell Express and its owner was identified as John Boswell. A search warrant executed there on Feb. 19, 2014, resulted in the recovery of 17 ounces of marijuana, a stolen 357-cal. pistol, and $4,491 in cash.

Governors Inn on Mt. Moriah near I-240 has been the epicenter of crime for the surrounding area. According to OCU and the Mt. Moriah Station Task Force, from January 2013 to March 2014 the hotel was the site of 17 arrests for aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, drug trafficking, illegal weapons possession, domestic violence, counterfeiting and outstanding warrants. Investigators said illegal activities at the hotel, including prostitution, have had a negative impact on the surrounding community.

A sweep of the hotel Wednesday yielded two ounces of marijuana and small amounts of heroin and powder cocaine, investigators said.

Under Tennessee's nuisance law, the District Attorney General has authority to bring a civil action against any establishment deemed a nuisance.

The statute defines a nuisance, in part, as "any place in or upon which ... unlawful sale of any regulated legend drug, narcotic or other controlled substance ... quarreling, drunkenness, fighting or breaches of the peace are carried on or permitted."

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FOX13 News reporter Darcy Thomas contributed to this report

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