Thursday, April 26, 2001

12 accused of large fencing scheme

Baby formula among items sold, authorities say

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        As TV cameras rolled, Mike Jallaq stood in a Burnet Avenue restaurant last month with other Avondale business people and community leaders and complained that the police didn't come around enough.

        On Wednesday, Mr. Jallaq — the owner of J&W Grocery — was in jail.

        He was charged as part of what state and local authorities are calling an elaborate fencing operation in which his and four other Cincinnati neighborhood markets allegedly sold stolen items, from cigarettes to appliances.

[photo] J&W Super Market at Burnet and Forest avenues in Avondale was one of five markets searched by local, state and federal authorities.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        Their biggest commodity was baby formula, some of it relabeled and sold to large national chains like Wal-Mart.

        Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen called the formula theft unconscionable.

        “What kind of thinking goes into fencing baby formula?” he said. “What kind of individuals would illegally traffic in baby food and — for a fast buck — actually ship it away from the mouths of babies in low-income, inner-city neighborhoods where it belonged?”

        Mr. Jallaq, 34, of Amelia, was among 12 people indicted and at least nine arrested Wednesday from activities at his market, as well as Shalash Foods Inc. and Big D's Food Market in Over-the-Rhine; Quality Mini Mart, also in Avondale; and Johnny's Foods in Walnut Hills.

        All 12 people operated or worked in the five markets. They face charges of receiving stolen property, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, conspiracy and illegal use of food stamps.

        Mr. Jallaq and several relatives were arrested just a few doors away from the J&W Restaurant where he helped host the community meeting during which he begged for more Cincinnati police attention. Police officials subsequently promised stepped up policing of the Burnet Avenue business area that was scheduled to begin next week.

        Cincinnati officers helped make the arrests Wednesday with the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, Mr. Allen's office, the state departments of taxation and public safety, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

        Several of Cincinnati's District 4 officers noted the irony of Mr. Jallaq's arrest, but declined to comment on it.

        “I've never seen this many cops out here on Burnet Avenue,” said Tom Jones, the Avondale Community Council president who has been leading a continuing effort to lobby police for more Burnet presence.

        “These are people who were helping us,” he said. “This looks ridiculous. But hey — let the chips fall where they may.”

        Five of Mr. Jallaq's family members were indicted: Adnan, 32, and Sammi, 40, both of Madeira; Ibrahim, also of Amelia; and Talal and Mohammed.

        Others indicted: Ahmad Shalash, 28; Mohamad Shalash, 31, of West Chester, and Mustafa Shalash, of Delhi Township; Souhail Gammoh, 29, who is still at large; Anthony Lillard of Over-the-Rhine; and Saed Elkahia.


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