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Home News-Telegram News Undercover: Half of businesses in sting operation sold alcohol to minor; some were repeat offenders

Undercover: Half of businesses in sting operation sold alcohol to minor; some were repeat offenders

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An undercover operation conducted by sheriff’s deputies New Year’s Eve showed half of the businesses tested sold alcohol to minors, and some of the businesses are repeat offenders, according to Hopkins County Sheriff’s Chief Investigator Lewis Tatum.

HCSO Sgt. Corley Weatherford and the deputies on midnight shift Tuesday voluntarily came in early for work to conduct the operation.

“They took this upon themselves to come in early on their own time to do this. We’ll continue to do this periodically until it quits — minors can’t buy alcohol in Hopkins County,” Tatum said.

Tatum said the deputies escorted a 17-year-old to stores throughout Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County which sell alcoholic beverages, sent the teen into 16 different stores to see if the clerk would sell alcohol to him. Of the 16 stores tested New Year’s Eve, six sold beer and two alcoholic beverages to the minor. They were contacted about the offense.

“We’re working up the cases now. We’ll turn them over to the county attorney to get warrants and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will also get the cases,” Tatum said Thursday morning.

Some of the stores were repeat offenders; clerks at some of the same stores sold alcoholic beverages to minors when deputies conducted a similar test operation in September, although Tatum said he does not believe the clerks who sold to minors were the same onescaught earlier in the year. During the September operation, 71 percent of businesses tested sold alcohol to minors.

The September sting was initiated after officers received several reports of  juveniles having large amounts of alcohol. Local officers on a few occasions had encountered juveniles with large amounts of alcohol and busted up gatherings in which large groups of people — many under the age of 21 — were in possession of or had consumed “an abundance of alcohol.” In some instances, deputies found “kids with multiple 30-packs” of beer. On at least one occasion, a minor was taken to the emergency room for alcohol poisoning, Tatum said in September.Further investigation and questioning by officers in the early fall resulted in information indicating some of the alcoholic beverages were purchased by minors at local stores. Deputies consulted with the county attorney’s office about the issue, and initiated a plan to see if stores would sell illegally to minors.

In both instances, once the minor purchased alcohol, the beverages were handed off to a deputy waiting outside the store, who then talked to the clerk who sold it about the illegal sale.

“Selling alcohol to a minor is a Class A misdemeanor offense. The clerks are the ones who would be charged in these type of cases,” Hopkins County Attorney Dusty Rabe said following the first undercover buys.

The potential range of punishment for a Class A misdemeanor conviction for selling alcohol to minor is up to one year in jail, two years on probation or a fine of up to $4,000.  

 

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