Pubdate: Fri,  5 Jun 2009
Source: Newsday (NY)
Copyright: 2009 Newsday Inc.
Author: Patrick Whittle
Bookmark: (Paraphernalia)


Authorities warned Shirley deli owner Mohammad Sohail about his
alleged illegal sale of drug paraphernalia months before his store was
raided this week, officials said Thursday.

Sohail, heralded Tuesday as a hero for his act of mercy toward a
would-be robber, is among the owners of seven Brookhaven and
Huntington shops who face penalties for allegedly selling pipes, bongs
and hookahs.

The man locals call "Mo" said he hopes the civil charges won't harm
his reputation.

"I don't want to be a zero. I still want to be a hero," he

A Tuesday night raid on Sohail's business,
which ended in the seizure of more than a dozen pipes and bongs, came
at the end of a day when national media reports hailed the deli owner.
On May 21, he gave $40 and a loaf of bread to a robber cowering after
Sohail pulled out a rifle, an encounter captured in a surveillance

Undercover investigators purchased drug equipment from Sohail three
times this year after making clear they were interested in doing
drugs, Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said Thursday.

The purchases came after authorities asked Sohail, whose store is
about a mile from William Floyd High School, to hide the merchandise
from children, Suffolk Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) said. She
said the request was made about six months ago, around the time Sohail
opened the Shirley Express Convenience store on William Floyd Parkway.

Sohail faces a fine of up to $30,000 and is scheduled to appear in
court on June 10, Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko said.

Sohail said he did not realize the sale of pipes and bongs could be
illegal. He added he had a sign on the glass cabinet where he
displayed them: "Pipe use for tobacco." Sohail said his total
inventory of pipes and bongs was worth about $600.

While acknowledging Sohail's kindness as "a nice thing to do at the
time," Browning added, "But I know who he is, I know what he was
doing. No sympathy for him."

State law allows store owners to sell bongs and pipes, but the sale
becomes illegal if the buyer expresses an interest in doing drugs,
Spota said. On one occasion, an undercover officer told Sohail, "I've
got some great weed that's going to go great in that bong," Spota said.

Sohail's conversation with undercover officers made clear he knew he
was selling drug paraphernalia, Spota said.

"While I may respect the fact that he did something courageous on one
occasion, I am absolutely convinced that he was violating the general
business law," Spota said. 
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