NEW PORT RICHEY — FoodLand Mini-mart, 3444 Grand Blvd., 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 Pasco County, more than 8,000 pounds of goods, including food and cleaning items, were surrendered Tuesday to Metropolitan Ministries to be given to those in need. The agreement dismissed some charges for selling synthetic marijuana.
Also, mini-mart owners Yasser Ahmed Hussin Elkalazani, 42, and his wife, Maha Hanna, 43, can no longer own or work at a convenience store in Pasco County.
Metropolitan Ministries volunteers collected 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 bittersweet 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.”
Most goods will be given away today and Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park, 14333 Hicks Road, Hudson. The ministry is aiding the Stand Down program, which helps homeless veterans.
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,” said Sgt. Bill Davis of the Pasco sheriff’s narcotics unit. “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 Land O’ Lakes Jail on unrelated charges of arson, sale of a controlled substance and possessing or constructing a firebomb. Bail has been revoked. He and his wife still face charges regarding the synthetic drug sales, 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,” said Assistant County Attorney Kristi Sims.