DENVER — Denver police arrested a convenience store owner and his clerk recently and seized twelve pounds of "spice," a form of fake marijuana. Authorities say the crackdown is "just getting started."
Maher Awad, 45, owner of Sun Mart, and clerk Abdelilah Dehry, 57, face felony charges of distribution and sale of synthetic cannabinoids. The store stands only a thousand feet from a high school and was frequented by many of its students.
Along with the fake marijuana, found in a thousand containers with a street value of twenty dollars each, police found more than $36,000 in cash they believe came from sale of the substance and 100 steroid tablets. Management claimed those were used for "working out."
Also in the store was suspected drug paraphernalia, including digital scales, rolling papers and hundreds of glass pipes commonly used to smoke marijuana, crack cocaine and methamphetamines.
One student said she doubted the spice was sold to minors. She said the clerks were really strict and always demanded proof of age from anyone attempting to buy it.
Police raided the store after a one-month investigation stemming from complaints that students were buying spice there.
The case may be the first to be prosecuted under a new law passed in 2011 that made sale of synthetic marijuana illegal. In January even possession was banned.
The substance is considered by some experts to be more dangerous than the real thing. Cases have been documented in which teenagers suffered convulsions, hallucinations and vomiting after ingesting it. It had been sold in numerous convenience and other stores as it was not illegal.
"We feel like a legal loophole has been closed," said Thornton Police Lt. Aaron Sanchez. He warned other retailers to take spice off their shelves or more arrests are to come. "This is not the only store we are looking at," he said.
COLORADO SPRINGS — The price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline is soaring in Colorado. It jumped 40 cents in one month. And motorists take no comfort in the state having the second lowest prices in the nation.
Between February and March the price rose from a state average of $3.01 to $3.41 and in Colorado Springs hit $3.45 in mid-month.
Motorists are scrambling to top off their tanks and to protect the gasoline they get as thieves are out in force again.
"Each day with prices going up, gasoline is getting more valuable," said Jake Snider at Scotty's Muffler in Grand Junction.
In some areas there have been reports of drivers buying 50-gallon drums to store the fuel against further increases. "It's an investment," one guy told his girlfriend.
Thieves are developing ever more sophisticated methods of grabbing the fuel. Drivers who were victimized the last time gasoline prices were so high are flocking to auto parts stores to buy locking gas caps at $10 to $30 apiece.
But some thieves have been so bold as to get under a car and drill the gas tank to drain the fuel.
"Not much you can do about that," said Snider.
COLORADO SPRINGS — A courageous little girl abducted from Pueblo took a stand at a convenience store and refused to leave with her kidnapper.
"No, I ain't going anywhere with you. I'm waiting for my mama," the nine-year-old shouted. Instead she asked the clerk to use the phone and dialed 911.
She had received a lucky break when the car in which she was traveling broke down and a good samaritan picked them up and dropped them off in front of a convenience store. She correctly calculated the convenience store was her best chance to escape.
The clerk and customers took note of her bruised face and stared down the man trying to haul her away until he gave up and fled.
About four hours later Jose Humberto Garcia, 29, of Pueblo was arrested at a bus station in Colorado Springs. Later they learned he is a suspect in the kidnapping of another girl, the daughter of an ex-girlfriend, who was returned to her home.
The nine-year-old's ordeal began as she walked home from school in Pueblo. She was forced into a car and remained missing, triggering an "AMBER Alert." It wasn't until the next day that her family learned what had become of her.
The next day the vehicle developed a flat tire in Colorado Springs. The car also sustained damage and may have been in a crash.
A passing motorist gave the man and girl a lift to a Circle K store. The girl said she had been beaten and was afraid to tell the motorist but once out of the car she quickly entered the store, Garcia close behind, and asked to use the telphone to call her uncle. Instead she dialed 911. When Garcia tried to get her to leave she balked and the crowd, catching on to her distress, faced him down and he left.
A customer saw the girl's T-shirt which was from the same elementary school he had attended in Pueblo and realized she was the one in the AMBER Alert. But it was too late to restrain the man. He was gone.
Garcia was being held on $250,000 bond while authorities sorted through the possible charges to be filed against him.
THORNTON — A woman who left her four-year-old and two-year-old children at a gasoline station and didn't return to pick them up calls it memory loss. Authorities call it child abuse and have charged her.
Sarah Hatfield turned up at a hospital eleven hours later, 12 miles away, after walking away from the gas station and says she is still wrestling with why she did it. "I did not set out or intend to abandon my kids," she told local TV station Fox31.
And her husband stands by her. "None of this made any sense. It's not my wife. She doesn't just go and abandon the children. She's a caring and loving mother," he told the Fox reporter.
Two weeks earlier the 25-year-old woman pawned some of the family jewelry and doesn't remember doing that either. Doctors who have examined her concluded it is a rare form of amnesia where a person can act normally, drive a car and do other complex tasks with no memory afterward.
Hatfield pleaded not guilty. She said she is undergoing medical treatment and that family members are supervising the children all the time now to avoid a reoccurrence.
COLORADO SPRINGS — Dino the Dinosaur isn't going anywhere. Well, he may move a few feet.
That's the promise of a man who bought the Sinclair station where Dino resided for more than forty years, and is converting the station to a 7-Eleven.
With the "low profile" 7-Eleven sign going up city officials have decided the dinosaur, stationed on the corner, is also a "low profile" sign and two exceed the limit of a city "low profile" sign ordinance.
Dino, six feet tall and thirteen feet long, has been popular with customers and tourists who took pictures of their kids in front of it. They told station owner Jasbinder Kahlon they were worried. Was Dino about to become extinct?
Kahlon turned to 7-Eleven consultant Ryan Royse. Royse came up with a solution.
Dino will be moved closer to the store where it will be considered a "wall sign," allowable under city code.
Because Kahlon will continue to sell Sinclair oil along with other products he considers Dino to be a valuable marketing tool. "We really want to keep it," he said.
COLORADO SPRINGS — Kum & Go, which was hailed by many for its plan to establish a big presence in the city has come up against a small pocket of resistance.
Residents in the northeast neighborhood where the Des Moines chain plans to erect a station on a parcel of vacant land vented at a public meeting. They said they were told a YMCA was planned for the area. The Y has changed its mind and wants to build on a larger site so it is willing to sell to the convenience store chain.
The detractors contend the increased traffic, potential for crime, and a wave of other unsuitable businesses being attracted there would destroy the tone of the neighborhood.
But the area is zoned commercial and the convenience store chain is expected to win the battle.
Kum & Go plans to invest $70 to $80 million and establish 20 to 25 stores in the Pikes Peak region, including Colorado Springs, in the next five years.
COLORADO SPRINGS — A man dropped a load of cash at a gasoline station here recently, and it wasn't for fuel.
The man apparently didn't know it had slipped from his grasp and drove away. An honest citizen found it and turned it into authorities, but a search for the owner has proved fruitless.
The incident occurred at a Diamond Shamrock. Employees recalled the money was dropped by a man in his twenties, wearing overalls, a hoodie, and a baseball cap.
Some speculated he didn't dare claim it. Others think he may have been from out of state and had no idea where he left it.
DENVER — After a series of legislative blows diminishing profits, help may be on the way for the small businessman like the convenience store owner.
The Colorado House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 094, which would ensure food meant for home consumption will remain eligible for a Colorado state sales tax exemption regardless of how it is marketed.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Libby Szabo, was in response to recent attempts by some municipalities to levy taxes on foods for domestic consumption because they have been marketed as convenience foods.
Current law has always held that food sold for home consumption at convenience stores or groceries is exempt from state and local sales taxes. Food prepared for immediate consumption, such as at restaurants, is taxable.
"Undermining current tax law at the expense of struggling families and working individuals is wrong," said Szabo, a Republican from Arvada. "This bill safeguards families and food vendors from over-taxation."
Lending their support to the proposed legislation are Safeway, King Soopers, 7-Eleven, Valero, the Rocky Mountain Food Industry Association, and the Colorado Retail Council.
The measure passed the House unanimously and is expected to have a smooth ride in the Senate.
LITTLETON — Jazz Car Wash and Detailing is continuing its eco-friendly approach to doing business by installing an automated car wash tunnel, reducing fresh water usage by eighty percent.
The system will recycle all the water used to clean a vehicle and its sophisticated technique ensures a clean wash. Only in the final rinsing cycle and in cleaning solution applications will fresh water be tapped.
"We've always used eco-friendly wash products where possible and worked to reduce overall power consumption and this is the final step in making sure we are as environmentally responsible as possible," said owner Keith Taylor.
In additional to the environmental benefits Taylor expects it will speed up the time to clean cars, reducing overall waiting time for his customers.
LAKEWOOD — Want a latte with that lube job? You can get it at Lube and Latte here.
Owner Dustin Olde wanted to bring the lube businesss into the modern age and establish a more comfortable environment for his customers. So he gives a free 12-ounce latte to everyone who brings his or her car in for a lube job. For a reasonable price he also will provide a breakfast pastry.
It's admittedly a strange mix. "I felt a little odd listening to jazzy new age music, sitting on mod furniture, and watching a guy in a greasemonkey outfit use a milk frother," said one customer. "But hey, it's a lot better way to wait for your car than in the typical lube joint."
Olde had some experience working in a coffee shop so he knows what customers like in their coffee.
As to his help, he likes to hire young people. "We have put a lot of stock into personality, knowing that having a skilled technician who doesn't care for his work is equivalent to having an unskilled technician. So we have hired outgoing, caring people who have the credentials necessary to perform car work across the spectrum, but who are also excited about our mission and core values."
Customers like the friendly staff. One man's young son was given crayons and coloring paper and a free hot chocolate while he waited with his dad.
They praise the attractive waiting room with its colorful vintage decor (yellow painted chairs at the bar height level, pea green colored cushions on the couches and spotless bathrooms).
Another way Olde is striving to be on the cutting edge of customer service is allowing more interaction with his website than most shops. He has started providing online check-in, vehicle updates and check-out on the web. He offers five dollars off to those who book online. He also has free Wi-Fi in the shop.
Originally published in the April 2012 issue of the O&A
Copyright 2012 by KAL Publications Inc.
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