NEW PORT RICHEY — FoodLand Mini-mart in Holiday, which had been warned numerous times and fined at least $70,000 for selling synthetic marijuana has closed.
In an agreement between the store’s owners and the county, more than 8,000 pounds of goods, including food and cleaning items, were surrendered to Metropolitan Ministries Tuesday night to be given to those in need. The agreement dismissed some the charges for selling synthetic marijuana.
Additionally, the owners of the mini-mart at 3444 Grand Blvd., Yasser Ahmed Hussin Elkalazani, 42, and his wife, Maha Hanna, 43, can no longer own or work at a convenience store in Pasco County.
Volunteers from Metropolitan Ministries went to the store Tuesday night and collected the items, which included 8,205 pounds of food, cleaning items and clothing.
“We’re talking about nearly 8,000 pounds worth of food that we certainly need for our client base in Pasco County,” said Gwen Harmon, associate director of community relations for Metropolitan Ministries. “However, we do have to say that we don’t celebrate receiving those kinds of donations based on this activity. We look at this as almost a bitter-sweet situation. You’ve got one segment of the community that’s going to benefit, while you’ve got another segment still in danger, still suffering from drug trafficking.”
The majority of the goods will be given away during a two-day event at Veterans Memorial Park, 14333 Hicks Road, Hudson. The ministry is aiding the Stand Down program, which helps homeless veterans. The event begins Friday and continues on Saturday.
Also, in lieu of paying the $70,000 fine, Elkalazani and Hanna paid Pasco County $14,000 in cash.
“We were all in agreement this was a good thing,” Sgt. Bill Davis of the Pasco Sheriff’s Office narcotics unit said. “The county got a fine, a good amount of money. I think $14,000 sends a heck of a message. And the nice thing about it is those less fortunate are going to receive a lot of these items.”
Elkalazani is in the Land O’ Lakes Jail on unrelated charges of arson, sale of a controlled substance and possessing or constructing a firebomb. Bail has been revoked on the charges.
The pair still face charges regarding their previous synthetic drug selling infractions, Davis said.
“FoodLand’s decision to donate its inventory does not erase the damage it inflicted on our community by selling illegal synthetic drugs, but it is a welcome gesture of atonement,” Kristi Sims, a Pasco assistant county attorney, said. “It is appropriate that part of resolution of these cases will immediately and directly benefit citizens in that community.”