Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“the Division”) announced on October 9, 2018 that the Division has revoked the license of a Bellmawr liquor store used in an illegal prescription drug operation that sold opioid drugs from a laundromat across the street.
In a Final Conclusion and Order issued October 4, 2018, the Division found that the three owners of Johnnie’s Liquor Store allowed their West Browning Street premises to be used for narcotic drug and controlled dangerous substances (“CDS”) activities in violation of the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control regulations.
“These licensees used their liquor store as a stash house from which they pushed dangerous prescription opioids onto the streets and into the hands of users suffering from addiction,” said Attorney General Grewal. “This revocation sends a strong message that New Jersey will not permit its liquor licensees to use their establishments as fronts for the kind of drug operations fueling our state’s opioid crisis.”
Brothers Rakesh, Dhananjaya, and Jalat Patel – equal shareholders of Rakesh, Inc., the entity that holds the license — were arrested in May 2016 following a three-month undercover investigation conducted by the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office.
The investigation focused on suspected drug activity taking place in the Bellmawr Laundromat located directly across the street from Johnnie’s Liquor Store. On several occasions, an undercover officer posing as a drug buyer purchased opioid pain pills from a dealer who retrieved the drugs from the liquor store.
On March 26, 2016, a search warrant was executed at Johnnie’s Liquor Store during which officers seized 368 narcotic pills – including 259 of the opioid drugs Oxycodone, Roxicet, and Tramadol – from a private office in the back of the store, along with $13,732 in cash and other items. During the investigation, the Patels acknowledged their participation and allowing the use of their licensed premises as part of this enterprise.
Rakesh, Dhananjaya, and Jalat Patel were charged with possessing prescription Oxycodone with intent to distribute and other CDS offenses.
“The Patel brothers committed grave violations of ABC regulations by being active participants and partners in the drug activity conducted on their licensed premises,” said David Rible, Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control. “At a time when opioid addiction is causing death rates to soar in our state, this kind of intentional and willful criminal activity by licensees is especially repugnant, and our disciplinary action in this matter reflects the egregiousness of their conduct.”
In 2017, the Division’s Enforcement Bureau charged Rakesh, Inc. with 12 violations of ABC regulations that prohibit illegal drug activities on licensed premises and sought to revoke its liquor license.
In his ruling, Director Rible found that the three Patel brothers were “acting in a highly egregious, injurious and irresponsible manner,” abused their privilege of holding an alcoholic beverage license in New Jersey, and ordered the revocation of Rakesh, Inc.’s license.
Under the terms of the Final Conclusion and Order, Rakesh Patel, Jalat Patel, and Dhananjaya Patel are ineligible to hold or receive any other alcoholic beverage license of any kind or class for a period of two years.