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Sunoco Station Selling Porn

MIDDLEBOROUGH, Massachusetts — The manager of the Middleboro Mini-Mart , a convenience store at the Sunoco gas station on West Grove Street , is being charged with selling drug paraphernalia. Police, following up on a sting operation last month, say they confiscated about $14,000 worth of glass pipes, pipe screens, scales, bongs, hookahs, blunt wrappers, and marijuana grinders.

Police Chief Gary Russell said he will recommend that the all the seized equipment be destroyed.

Illesh Patel , a 41 year-old Lakeville resident who manages the mini-mart, admitted he had brought in the items for sale, according to Chief Gary Russell . Patel, who will be arraigned in Wareham District Court, told police he was unaware that selling the items was against the law, authorities said. Massachusetts state law prohibits the sale of anything that one can reasonably associate with the use of illegal drugs. Violators can be punished by up to two years in jail, and fined $500 to $5,000.

Gary Bourne , owner of both the Sunoco station and the mini-mart, will not be criminally charged in connection to the sale of drug paraphernalia. But selectmen Monday suspended the store’s liquor license for 30 days , saying that illegal activity constitutes a violation of the license terms. Bourne surrendered the license to the selectmen’s office Tuesday.

During the search of the convenience store, police also confiscated more than 50 pornographic DVDs and videos whose graphic covers were displayed in an area that could be seen by minors. “They were the worst of the worst,” Russell said.

While no criminal charges will stem from the sale of those items, selectmen have asked the town’s attorney whether their sale was a violation of zoning bylaws, since the Sunoco station is not in the adult entertainment zone. The board has tentatively set a hearing for Nov. 13 on whether the pornography sale amounted to a zoning violation.

“I think we were equally upset about the drug paraphernalia and the porn,” said selectmen chairman Wayne Perkins . “We do not want either sold in any location in Middleborough, particularly where children can see it.”

Bourne, owner of Bourne Petroleum , said that he was aware of the sale of the alleged drug paraphernalia and pornography but that he did not realize such items would violate the terms of the store’s liquor license, which is in his name. Bourne denied responsibility for adding the items to the convenience store’s inventory, and such items were not sold in other convenience stores he owns.

Middleborough police are not the only ones cracking down on the sale of what they believe are drug-related items. Pembroke police last November confiscated about $20,000 in alleged drug paraphernalia from Brennan’s Smoke Shop.

Pembroke police filed a criminal complaint against owner Karen Brennan Fontana . The court at first ruled that police did not have enough evidence for a case, but after police appealed, the charge went forward. The case is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing in Plymouth District Court on Oct. 18 , according to Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz.

“In the case in Pembroke, hundreds of items were taken by police, including bongs and pipes and other equipment that an expert has said is used for cocaine,” Cruz said. Fontana, who also owns smoke shops in Brockton and Plymouth, said that nothing she sells in her shops is illegal, and that the equipment seized by authorities could be used for tobacco smoking.

She has complained that the laws regarding drug paraphernalia are vague and open to interpretation. Responds Cruz: “That will be up to a judge or jury to decide.”

Hanover police last January confiscated alleged drug-related paraphernalia from Spencer Gifts. No charges were filed after police came to an agreement with store owners that all such items would be permanently removed from the shelves, Cruz said.

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