среда, 4 июня 2008 г.

New drug law shutters Market Square barbershop

May 25--Some patrons of a Market Square barbershop went in for more than just a shave and a haircut, authorities say.

Allegheny County sheriff's deputies on Thursday padlocked the Success barbershop, which prosecutors claim was a drug nuisance.

The District Attorney's Office argued that more than 120 arrests for drug violations have occurred in and around Market Square and the shop. Common Pleas Judge Robert P. Horgos signed a preliminary injunction yesterday to close the business. A hearing to keep it closed is scheduled for Wednesday before Horgos.

District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said the closure was the first in Allegheny County under the Drug Nuisance Law.

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Local leaders are trying to clean up Market Square and redevelop it as a Downtown hub. In January, Zappala's office used nuisance bar laws to force the closing of Mick McGuire's bar in Market Square over allegations of drug dealing in the bar.

"We've successfully closed the second drug-trafficking business in Market Square," Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said in a statement. "We've let criminals know that we are committed to the health of Pittsburgh's 89th neighborhood, Downtown."

According to prosecutors, the owners of Success, their employees and patrons are responsible for criminal violence, possession and drug trafficking of narcotics inside and around the barber shop.

Charles Fowlks, one of the shop owners, denied drug dealing had occurred there.

"They know I don't sell anything here," said Fowlks, 34. "Since the barbershop is black, and they're trying to re-do Market Square, they want us out."

In the complaint presented to Horgos, prosecutors said an informant bought marijuana from Fowlks inside the barbershop.

Police searched the shop May 14 and recovered 12 knotted plastic bags of crack cocaine and packaging material used for the sale of drugs, according to the complaint.

Fowlks was charged after the raid with possession of crack cocaine, drug paraphernalia and possession with intent to deliver, according to the complaint presented to Horgos yesterday.

"They came in and said they found crack cocaine. They didn't say where," Fowlks said. "A lot of people come in here."

Varick Benson, 35, of Point Breeze, who works at the business as a barber, said police burst into the shop last week when he was cutting hair and claimed they found drugs.

"I need this job to pay my bills," Benson said.

After the raid, police charged Benson with five charges of possession and possession with intent to deliver marijuana and cocaine, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Police said they found $1,298, a large bag of marijuana and a cell phone in his barber chair.

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