Are these store owners playing dumb?


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RangerHAAF
August 4, 2005, 10:04 AM
Or are these run ins with the law truly part of a cultural mistake fueled by a language barrier? I don't interact too often with convenience store operators but the situation that is developing leads me to believe that they probably know what's going on but choose to ignore the prevailing circumstances to enhance their profits.

Also, in this case law enforcement is not blameless either. Oftentimes, in their zeal to arrest people for drug charges, officers don't take the time to correctly identify their suspects. In this case, the last name Patel is as common to Indians as Smith or Jones is to Americans.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/04/national/04meth.html?hp&ex=1123214400&en=c221276c508849b9&ei=5094&partner=homepage

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Marshall
August 4, 2005, 10:15 AM
Who knows?

What have trouble with is law suits like the Walgreen deal. I mean "$1.3 million for failing to monitor the sale of over-the-counter cold medicine that was bought by a methamphetamine dealer in Texas."

Maybe I missed something? Were they under an order? What exactly does monitor mean in this case? Did they know the drug dealer? I could walk into Walgreens and buy anything I want and the little girl behind the counter is so clueless how could anyone blame her or Walgreens for anything?

Kjervin
August 4, 2005, 10:59 AM
The guy who had the Georgia Bureau of Investigation card and said he would not call to protect his customer is probably in trouble. I suspect the majority did not know what they were doing, but did not care as long as they paid for the stuff.
The problem I see is to have a set of products that are leagal to sell if they are going to sell for one purpose, but not for another. LE agencies are trying to get store clerks to do part of the investigating for them and then treating them as if they are the enemy. The fed.gov does the same thing to FFL's. They would have to hire a boatload of extra people to perform the record keeping and screaning that gun stores do and yet when something is not reported correctly, they try to bury them. In doing so, they create a feeling of amimosity between themselves and the people they need the cooperation of to enforce the law. I doubt the store owners were trying to supply the local drug trade; they were just trying to move some sterno! Why should they be responsible for what someone else does with it once they leave the store? Sounds like some theories are trying to be applied to more then just the gun industry, huh?
Kj

HankB
August 4, 2005, 12:11 PM
. . . the police are telling merchants to be suspicious of sales of charcoal, coffee filters, aluminum foil and Kitty Litter. Big Brother is watching you, and demanding that others do so, too. There are no innocents, there are only degrees of guilt. If you're going to have a BBQ and serve coffee, and were planning to wrap up some food in foil before putting it on the grill . . . uh oh, better think twice about that. :scrutiny:

Hmmm . . . by demanding that shopkeepers in effect "work" for the authorities, isn't the government violating labor laws unless the shopkeepers are paid at least minimum wage?

And if they don't WANT to work for the government . . . aren't they protected against involuntary servitude?

Henry Bowman
August 4, 2005, 12:18 PM
If you're going to have a BBQ and serve coffee, and were planning to wrap up some food in foil before putting it on the grill . . . uh oh, better think twice about that. So how do you explain the kitty litter???!!! Huh?? Huh?? :uhoh:

We all know the coffee filters are used as padding for the aluminum foil. That stuff can chafe your scalp if it's in direct contact. ;)

Joejojoba111
August 4, 2005, 12:20 PM
That's just wrong. You pay taxes so that secret police can come in and trick hard working immigrants. Yea what's not to like.

Umm, this is the definition of tyranny, just a heads up. People doing that. Like the country was formed to get away from. Tyranny.

migoi
August 4, 2005, 12:39 PM
places where my command of the local language was at the "transactional" level on my best days, I would vote that most of the clerks had no idea what the UC was inferring. For two years in Korea I taught English at the Korean Naval Academy. Most of my students did well when working with standard English but went to high confusion when idioms and slang were introduced into a conversation.

Plus, forcing store clerks to 'guess' the final use a customer will make of his purchases is beyond stupid. If it's such a problem send a UC into a store, let him hang out until someone make a suspicious purchase and then follow that person to see what he does with it.

Imagine yourself as the clerk. Shady dude comes in and buys supplies indicative of doing a meth production. How do you think this guy is going to react when told he can't make the purchase. It's one thing to do that refusal in a Walgreens with security folks a P.A. announcement away. It's an entirely different matter when you're alone in a stop and rob.

migoi

Yowza
August 4, 2005, 01:53 PM
Language problems aside, these guys are not cops and should not be expected to stand up to people who the police know full well are dangerous criminals. This job is dangerous enough as it is without adding criminal reprisal for informing on top of everything else.

Even if they are playing dumb, I don't blame them in the least. The government created this problem, now they are looking for scapegoats.

Rick

pcf
August 4, 2005, 01:56 PM
The beauty of laws that punish for other people's crime. In no way does it punish people who produce methamphetamines in ultra-scary, super-explosives, child-burning, evil-laboratories. Ultimately real drug dealers and drug producers walk, while others are punished for their crimes.

-Do you need an ATF background check every time you buy a pound of gunpowder? It's not unreasonable to believe that you could produce a pipe bomb.

Daniel T
August 4, 2005, 02:00 PM
Since he hasn't shown up yet...

"Yeah, but at least we don't live in a police state."

-Standing Wolf

Spreadfire Arms
August 4, 2005, 02:19 PM
interesting.

since we are supposed to be tried in court with a "jury of our peers." the best jury would be a jury composed of Indian immigrants.

then they could decide if the defendants are actually crooks, or that they just do not understand.

even if they did understand, if some dope dealer asked a cashier if "he was going to report him to the authorities," do you think it is evidentiary that someone replied, "No, you're my customer?" a person might be scared of getting hurt or killed by the dealer.

personally, i think this is a very weak case. it will be very difficult to prove their intent when they have no idea what they just heard.

a defense attorney could put his defendant on the stand and ask him all kinds of questions that the defendant could not understand, and see his honest reaction to the questions. for example, many immigrants who do not speak English well have a tendency to nod their head or say, "Yes," in response to a question they just heard that they have no idea what it means. i don't think it is going to take Johnnie Cochran to defend these people.....

RangerHAAF
August 4, 2005, 02:24 PM
I figure most of the cases against the store owners will be dismissed because they legitimately don't understand the "street slang" and other euphemisms that are used by people with other nefarious intentions in mind when they come into their stores to buy the proscribed items in question. Georgia today is a very diverse state with a lot of immigrants(legal and otherwise) living within our borders. It's tough enough for them to understand English but when you add dubious verbal inflections that even I don't understand on a daily basis, whether or not they understand or intended to violate the law becomes a valid question.

scout26
August 4, 2005, 02:39 PM
"jury of our peers."

Nope, sorry that's only in Merry Ole England, so that the Lords and Barons would not have to face the judgment of the peasants. Here's what the US Constitution says:

Art 3, Section 2:

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.

P.S. The US Consititution is for sale at Overstock.com for $13.45. Get 'em while they last.

roo_ster
August 4, 2005, 03:23 PM
August 4, 2005
Cultural Differences Complicate a Georgia Drug Sting Operation
By KATE ZERNIKE

ROME, Ga., July 29 - When they charged 49 convenience store clerks and owners in rural northwest Georgia with selling materials used to make methamphetamine, federal prosecutors declared that they had conclusive evidence. Hidden microphones and cameras, they said, had caught the workers acknowledging that the products would be used to make the drug.

But weeks of court motions have produced many questions. Forty-four of the defendants are Indian immigrants - 32, mostly unrelated, are named Patel - and many spoke little more than the kind of transactional English mocked in sitcoms.

How many chins in China? Not nearly as many as there are Patels in India.

So when a government informant told store clerks that he needed the cold medicine, matches and camping fuel to "finish up a cook," some of them said they figured he must have meant something about barbecue.

The case of Operation Meth Merchant illustrates another difficulty for law enforcement officials fighting methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug that can be made with ordinary grocery store items.

Actually, it shows the duma$$ery of LEOs trying to have others do their jobs for them.

Many states, including Georgia, have recently enacted laws restricting the sale of common cold medicines like Sudafed, and nationwide, the police are telling merchants to be suspicious of sales of charcoal, coffee filters, aluminum foil and Kitty Litter. Walgreens agreed this week to pay $1.3 million for failing to monitor the sale of over-the-counter cold medicine that was bought by a methamphetamine dealer in Texas.

Proving, once again, that our government officials are buffoons.

But the case here is also complicated by culture. Prosecutors have had to drop charges against one defendant they misidentified, presuming that the Indian woman inside the store must be the same Indian woman whose name appeared on the registration for a van parked outside, and lawyers have gathered evidence arguing that another defendant is the wrong Patel.

The biggest problem, defense lawyers say, is the language barrier between an immigrant store clerk and the undercover informants who used drug slang or quick asides to convey that they were planning to make methamphetamine.

"They're not really paying attention to what they're being told," said Steve Sadow, one of the lawyers. "Their business is: I ring it up, you leave, I've done my job. Call it language or idiom or culture, I'm not sure you're able to show they know there's anything wrong with what they're doing."

For the Indians, their lives largely limited to store and home, it is as if they have fallen through a looking glass into a world they were content to keep on the other side of the cash register.

"This is the first time I heard this - I don't know how to pronounce - this meta-meta something," said Hajira Ahmed, whose husband is in jail pending charges that he sold cold medicine and antifreeze at their convenience store on a winding road near the Tennessee border.

But David Nahmias, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said the evidence showed that the clerks knew that the informants posing as customers planned to make drugs. Federal law makes it illegal to sell products knowing, or with reason to believe, that they will be used to produce drugs. In these cases, lawyers say, defendants face up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

Yet another example of damnfoolery. Can't sell gasoline ot a known pothead, he might use his auto to distribute. Can't sell kitty litter to a possible meth user/maker, even if he has cats. I'd like a list of the cretins who voted for this...and those who enforce it.

In one instance, Mr. Nahmias said, a store owner in Whitfield County pulled out a business card from a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent and told the informant that he was supposed to contact the agent if someone requested large amounts of the materials. When the informant asked if he would call, Mr. Nahmias said, the owner replied, "No, you are my customer."

"It's not that they should have known," Mr. Nahmias said. "In virtually or maybe all of the cases, they did know."

Assume they did know. If they believe all the drug-warrior propaganda, they "know" these meth user/producers are insanely violent folks who blow up small children and fluffy puppies on alternate Tuesdays. Do they want to get on their bad side by calling the Feebs and giving the insanely violent meth lab operator a reason to come back and harm him and his family?

Like many prosecutors, Mr. Nahmias describes methamphetamine, a highly potent drug that can be injected, ingested or inhaled, as the biggest drug problem in his district. While only about a third of the meth here is made in small labs - the majority of the drug used in this country comes from so-called superlabs in Mexico - those small labs can be highly explosive, posing a danger to children, the environment and the police departments that are forced to clean them up. Their sources, he said, are local convenience stores.

Wow, meth must make its user/producer truly insane....to pay convenience-store prices for what can be had for 1/3 the price elsewhere...for all 4 boxes the store manages to stock. We must stop this crime (all together, now) "For the children."

"While those people may not think they're causing any harm, the harm they cause is tremendous," Mr. Nahmias said. "We really wanted to send the message that if you get into that line of business, selling products that you know are going to be used to make meth, you're going to go to prison."

Operation Meth Merchant started, Mr. Nahmias said, with complaints from local sheriffs that certain stores were catering to the labs. Prosecutors paid confidential informants - some former convicts, others offered the promise of lighter punishment for pending charges - to buy products in stores in six counties beginning in early 2004, and drop hints that they were making drugs.

Defense lawyers said some of the defendants probably did know what they were doing when they sold the materials. But on several tapes, provided by the government to the lawyers, who played them for a reporter, it was not always clear that the people behind the counter understood.

One recording captures an informant who walked into the Tobacco and Beverage Mart in Trenton, Ga., and asked for Pseudo 60, a particularly potent brand of cold medicine, which contains pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient of methamphetamine. The clerk, Mangesh Patel, 55, said the store no longer carried it. "Police guy came here said don't sell," Mr. Patel said. "Misuse. Public misuse."

The informant replied: "I know what they're doing with it, because that's what I'm going to do with it."

"Yah," Mr. Patel replied, "public misuse."

When the informant found another bottle of pills that he said might work, Mr. Patel told him he could sell only two, under orders from "the police guy." The informant asked if his friend could come in and buy two more. "Yeah," Mr. Patel replied, "But I cannot sell two to one guy."

Defense lawyers say the Indians were simply being good merchants and obeying what they believed was the letter of the law. Several refused to sell more than two bottles of cold medicine, citing store policy. They were charged, prosecutors say, because they allowed the "customers" to come back the next day for more. Prosecutors say that should have made it clear to the clerks that the buyers were up to no good.

In some cases, the language barriers seem obvious - one videotape shows cold medicine stacked next to a sign saying, "Cheek your change befor you leave a counter." Investigators footnoted court papers to explain that the clue the informants dropped most often - that they were doing "a cook" - is a "common term" meth makers use. Lawyers argue that if the courts could not be expected to understand what this meant, neither could immigrants with a limited grasp of English.

So, citizens are to be held responsible, under threat of imprisonment, for understanding drug sub-culture slang? I know some native-born Americans that have difficulty with middle-class English, much less dialects and slang.

"This is not even slang language like 'gonna,' 'wanna,' " said Malvika Patel, who spent three days in jail before being cleared this month. " 'Cook' is very clear; it means food." And in this context, she said, some of the items the government wants stores to monitor would not set off any alarms. "When I do barbecue, I have four families. I never have enough aluminum foil."

I'd best be careful, as I bought the restaurant-sized roll of aluminum foil at Costco the other day as well as Sudafed.

According to court records, prosecutors first identified Ms. Patel as the woman who sold two bottles of cold medicine to an informant in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., because her name appeared on the registration of a van parked outside. But the driver of the van worked for a company, owned by her and her husband, that installs security cameras, and Ms. Patel produced records showing that she was picking her son up at a day care center in Tennessee at the moment she was said to be in Georgia.

Her misidentification has fueled the belief among the Indians that investigators were operating on cultural bias. This corner of the state is still largely white; Indians began moving here about 10 years ago, buying hotels and then convenience stores, and some whites still say, mistakenly, that "Patel" means "hotel" in Hindi.

"They want to destroy all Indian businesses," said Ms. Ahmed, whose husband is in jail. "Because they hate us, or I don't know."

Mr. Nahmias said he was willing to consider evidence of language barriers when the cases went to trial later this year. But he denied singling out any group. "We follow the evidence where it goes," he said.

"Even down rabbit holes," Mr. Nahmias replied after he left the new Federal Building's restroom, complete with "Rights Wipe," the only toilet tissue with the text of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights printed on every roll.

Still, the case has set off ripples from the green ridges here to the Indian state of Gujarat, the traditional homeland of Patels, where newspapers have carried articles about the arrests.

"We go into temple and they look at you - it's a bad image right now," said Dilip Patel, who owns one of the stores involved. "If I have to go to the City Hall to do some paper, they see me 'Patel,' they look at me I'm a hard man, I'm a bad guy."

Malvika Patel's husband, who has Americanized his name from Chirag to Chris, says his wife's arrest made him think about selling his three stores and leaving the country.

"We are from so much cleaner society where we are from in India," he said. "We didn't even know what drugs were."

Ms. Patel says she has tried to shield herself from the ugly aspects of life here - she does not read newspapers because she wearies of all the crime. Maybe, she said, that was a mistake. "I think you need all this bad knowledge now if you want to live here."


************

I guess I am not completely jaded & cynical yet, as I can still be caught wondering, "***? This has to be a bad parody."

#1 Lesson to My Boy: Always wear pants. Nobody takes you seriously if you run around with nothing on below your waist but your tighty-whiteys.

#2 Lesson to My Boy: We are ruled by violent & dangerous buffoons who are not to be trusted.

Daniel T
August 4, 2005, 05:57 PM
Holy crap.

What unmitigated garbage. The War on (Some) Drugs is nothing but antithetical to the society we are SUPPOSED to be living in. This kind of crap is indefensible and it is unacceptable that we tolerate it. What country are we living in again, Mr. Drug Warrior?

I speak English just fine, and I would have been just as confused if someone told me they needed to "finish up a cook" while buying cold medicine, matches, and camp fuel.

"'We follow the evidence where it goes,' he said." The hell you do, scum-bag. You go after the easy targets.

Joejojoba111
August 4, 2005, 06:52 PM
And why do they do it? For money. Pay bonuses, promotions, budget enhancements. They throw innocent people in jail in exchange for money. They take innocent people and use the full force of the federal government to convert them into criminals by any means, especially trickery.

Every time people argue how new anti-terror police powers are a good thing, a needed thing, I can't help but vomit a little. We all know this is where it will go, eventually instead of charged with drug offences they'll be tricking people into being charged with terror offences. I kid you not.

scottgun
August 4, 2005, 06:59 PM
I hate to say it, but this is almost as bad as using an empty coffee can as PC for a search of your car.


Anything could be used for nefarious purposes, it will just be a matter of time before purchasing the wrong combination of legal products will get you busted.

Standing Wolf
August 4, 2005, 09:43 PM
More Great Victories in the famous war on drugs!

Since he hasn't shown up yet...
"Yeah, but at least we don't live in a police state."
-Standing Wolf

Sorry I'm late. I've been working on the great American novella.

Justin
August 4, 2005, 10:05 PM
http://www.macvanmaps.com/BUSTED.gif

DRZinn
August 7, 2005, 03:00 AM
Even if they did understand exactly what the products would probably be used for, nothing these people did was mala in se. Add the fact that they don't have much of a command of the idiomatic English used by people who never learned proper English, and you've got nothin'.

These are some of the good immigrants, the ones who come here to work hard and get ahead, without bleeding the system, and they're persecuted while those who do drain our lifeblood are ignored or given further incentives (state-resident tuition, drivers' licenses, etc, etc, etc).

Further and further down the rabbit hole....

ken grant
August 7, 2005, 10:46 AM
I would like to know where these immigrants get the funds to buy up all the stores,fast gas and motels!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :confused:

Art Eatman
August 7, 2005, 02:43 PM
ken, it's mostly from decades of scrimping and saving, and then having the ambition to make loan payments. You'll note that most of the Indians are older. And, they have the whole family working there. It's a no-BS "for the children".

Same for the Vietnamese and Koreans, etc...Think "work and save". They don't worry about wines and brie and Volvos.

I remember a TV interview with an Anglo bay-shrimper on the Texas coast. It was during a time of new competition from Vietnamese. He was a pot-gutted late-forties guy, and in the background were his wife and two teen-age sons. His spiel was along the lines of, "It's not fair! They got their whole family working! The wife and kids work right along with them! How can we compete?"

Art

Fly320s
August 7, 2005, 03:35 PM
Questions:

Can a shop keeper be prosecuted if he willingly and knowingly sells the products that can be used to make meth?

If I tell a shop keeper that I intend to make meth (no language barrier - clear and unambiguous language) and that I need these supplies to do it, is the shop keeper legally required to not sell the products to me?

Art Eatman
August 7, 2005, 06:32 PM
"Can a shop keeper be prosecuted if he willingly and knowingly sells the products that can be used to make meth?"

I've never known of a law with restrictions on sales to not have some penalties for knowingly breaking it.

"If I tell a shop keeper that I intend to make meth (no language barrier - clear and unambiguous language) and that I need these supplies to do it, is the shop keeper legally required to not sell the products to me?"

I certainly wouldn't expect otherwise. If he sold to you under those circumstances, you're back to your first question...

:), Art

Rebar
August 7, 2005, 06:37 PM
http://zapatopi.net/afdb/afdbhead.jpg
Am I going to get someone in trouble when I need to replace my hat?

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