NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- The New Roc Mini-Mart at 149 North Avenue does not have a New York State Tax Department Certificate to Sell Tobacco Products. The store owner has been busted repeatedly for the sale of tobacco products, selling untaxed cigarettes and selling loose cigarettes. The store owner has been cited for numerous County health code violations along with numerous building code violations including unclean, unsafe sanitary conditions.
Yet somehow, Westchester County’s Bureau of Public Health Protection saw fit to send a letter from its Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention program commending the New Roc Mini-Mart because while their inspector was sold a loose cigarette for one dollar, the inspector observed an undercover minor working with him be denied a “hookah stick” by Khader Dadsi described as a “worker” but actually a minority-share owner of the store.
The New Roc Mini-Mart is owned by Abbas AlSaidi. After AlSaidi was evicted from a second store he had leased at 384 North Avenue, his belongings were placed in the street, among them a large bag of documents which Talk of the Sound obtained, organized, scanned and published. Among them were records of AlSaidi’s dealings with the Westchester County Department of Health:
Those files include a copy of a letter which reads:
Your store denied an illegal tobacco sale to a minor (under 18 years). This was due to your conscientious staff that proofed the minor and successfully stopped the sale on November 13, 2013.
We applaud you and your staff for upholding the law and supporting a broad-based effort to protect underage teens from tobacco use.
Bureau of Public Health Protection
The inspection report notes “No Tobacco Signage Posted” yet lists a Certificate of Authority 46-11-36342. The New Roc Mini-Mart does not have a Certificate of Authority to sell tobacco products as the owner, Abbas AlSaidi admitted when he was arrested several months later by the New Rochelle Police Department.
When police entered the store on December 18, 2013, they found “numerous boxes of cigars, cigar wraps, and electronic cigarettes on a shelf behind the sales counter” and proceeded to investigate further.
“We asked the owner of the market, Abbas AlSaidi, if he possessed a license to sell tobacco products. He stated no, and further stated that he was selling the tobacco products without a license because he was experiencing financial hardships.”
During this exchange a customer walked in to the store and asked to purchase cigarettes. When asked by police if he sold cigarettes, AlSaidi was silent. Police then investigated further and found hundreds of packages of untaxed cigarettes, hundreds of cigars and more contraband at which point AlSaidi was taken into custody.
During the County Health inspection, Khader Dadsi claimed not to know the man behind the county, described as “a crew cut gentlemen behind the counter, arabic, 50, strong build”, who sold the loose cigarette behind the counter.
New Roc Mini-Mart has been issued violations on at least three occasions by the Westchester County Department of Health. In addition to the visit on August 20, 2013, the store was issued Board of Health Order on June 20, 2013 and February 20, 2014. On September 2, 2014, the Westchester County Department of Health notified AlSaidi that due to his failure to comply with a Board of Health Order dated 6/20/13 and 2/20/14 including fines totaling $1,300, the matter had been referred to the Westchester County Attorney.
These records raised two important questions:
1. Why would Westchester County provide a letter of commendation to a store owner who they knew to have violated County and State law regarding the sale of cigarettes, and had done so during the same inspection for which the store was commended?
2. How was AlSaidi able to produce Certificate of Authority 46-11-36342 for a Westchester County inspector when he told New Rochelle police he did not have a Certificate of Authority?
Talk of the Sound will follow up with County and State officials this week, looking for answers.