Convenience Stores Raided in Freeport

UPDATE: The Freeport fire inspector says the five businesses he closed for safety violations are now back open.

He shut them down for minor infractions like aisles being too narrow. The closure came after federal agents joined Freeport Police in an investigation into whether they’re selling counterfeit merchandise. No one has been arrested. The Stephenson County State’s Attorney has yet to review the case.

FREEPORT (WIFR) -- Federal agents swarmed Freeport today in an investigation into the sale of counterfeit goods. It's a raid very similar to the one that happened in Rockford about two and half years ago.

S and N Tobacco is the only Freeport convenience store raided that's allowed to do business right now. Federal agents and Freeport Police confiscated boxes of apparel they call counterfeit.

"They took my stuff, they took money, they said they're going to seize it. I though it's legal, that's why I put it on display," says part-owner Hassan Tariq.

Tariq says they took hats and jewelry. Police wouldn't confirm that or share the brands involved. Five other convenience stores are also being investigated for the same thing. But they remain closed after the Freeport Fire Inspector shut them down for safety violations.

"Once a year I go to these businesses and every year when I go back, it's always the same problems. They always try to get away with a little bit more and a little bit more," says Inspector Clyde Butler.

He says problems include aisles that are too narrow and obstructed, extension cords being used improperly and other concerns that leave customers vulnerable.

"Especially when they don't have a sprinkler system, they've gotta have fire extinguishers," he says.

This is a similar investigation as the one in Rockford in 2010. Eight convenience store workers were convicted for selling counterfeit goods and accepting link card benefits for cash and other forbidden items.

No one has been arrested in the Freeport case. But that could change. Police will be handing the case over to the Stephenson County State's Attorney, whom will decide whether charges are necessary.

Businesses closed will be allowed to reopen once they fix problems laid out by the Fire Inspector.

From earlier....

FREEPORT (WIFR) – Several Freeport convenience stores are at the center of a federal investigation into whether they’re selling counterfeit items. Homeland Security, and the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture joined Freeport Police in raiding six convenience stores.

The stores raided include:

All in One Convenience
920 S Locust Ave.

S&N Tobacco & Convenience
804 W Galena Ave

West End Tobacco & Convenience
1258 W Galena Ave

Adams Market
453 S Adams Ave

Dollar Depot Store
716 S Galena Ave.

South Galena Avenue Convenience Store
833 S Galena Ave

The Freeport Police Department is leading the investigation. They say officers confiscated several boxes of fake apparel, but couldn’t elaborate as to exactly what type of apparel and the brands copied. Freeport Fire assisted and closed four of the stores for minor safety code violations, like aisles being too narrow and extension cords being stored improperly. One shop owner we talked to calls the raid, unjustified.

"I told them I’d give them the suppliers number. There are a lot of stores in Chicago that sell this stuff, so you can get it easily, so I told them they should go grab them too. If I had a problem, I wouldn't sell it, I thought it was legal, that's why I put it on display,” said Part Owner, Hassan Tariq.

Freeport Police Officers are still writing up their reports. They’ll then present their case to the Stephenson County State’s Attorney whom will decide whether anyone will be charged. So far, no one has been arrested. This is similar to the raid that happened at Rockford convenience stores in 2010.

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