The dozen charges brought by the City of Buffalo against a Lovejoy corner store paint the picture of an apparent neighborhood nuisance.
Untaxed cigarettes being sold inside. Trash in the backyard. Vehicles without license plates stored on the property.
The owners of IGA Community Express Mart at 271 Ludington St., face the administrative charges as a result of inspections dating from January, according to the charges filed by the city’s Department of Permit & Inspection Services. The charges form the basis of the city’s attempt to revoke the store’s operating license.
The store is run by the family of Ahmed Alshami, who was held on $2 million bail after he was arraigned last week on food stamp fraud and burglary charges The city filed its charges in late July against Alshami’s wife, Nadia Alhaj, who holds the city license to run the food store.
The store also has been the subject of 25 complaints to the city’s 311 Call and Resolution Center since December, according to records obtained by The Buffalo News through a Freedom of Information Law request.
Permit & Inspection Services began an administrative hearing last Thursday. The hearing will continue at 10 a.m. next Tuesday in City Hall.
Alhaj’s attorney, Michael S. Deal, said that it would be premature to comment in the middle of the ongoing hearing, but he did refer to one comment he made during his opening statement at the hearing.
“There has in the past been obstruction to Nadia running the store in compliance with all the ordinances at issue,” he said. When pressed on the point, Deal added, “I think her husband was an obstruction to her being able to fully comply.”
The city’s charges cite inspections completed Jan. 27, Feb. 9, March 25, April 14, and July 1, 12, 25 and 27, according to the charging documents.
Complaints have been made about the property to the city’s 311 system as recently as Aug. 22, according to documents provided by the city in response to a FOIL request.
The charges include selling secondhand items without a dealer’s license from the city. The most recent inspection found building code violations, according to the eight-page complaint filed by the city. An inspector bought a pack of untaxed cigarettes as recently as July 27.
Alshami was arrested Aug. 19 and arraigned Aug. 23 on charges of second-degree criminal possession of public benefit cards, misuse of food stamps, criminal use of a public benefit card and third-degree burglary.
He has 10 previous arrests and a history of not showing up for court, according to the Erie County District Attorney’s Office. Once the hearing is completed, the hearing officer will make a recommendation to the Commissioner James W. Comerford Jr., who will issue a decision.