LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Last week, Lexington Police ended a nine-month drug investigation called "Operation Transformation." The M&M Grocery at the corner of 5th Street and Chestnut was at the center of the raid.
"Over the course of our investigation, a vast majority of our purchases were make in or on the property there," said Lexington Police Lt. Scott Blakely.
Police charged the two people that run the store, Imad Hamdan and Abdelkareem Hamdan, with welfare fraud. Police said not only were the two allowing drug deals to happen in their store, but they also abused SNAP benefits by allegedly letting customers use food stamps for illegal purchases, like beer and cigarettes.
"Nobody sells drugs in here," Imad Hamdan said. After telling us to leave the store Wednesday morning, he invited us back in a few minutes later to talk. "Show me how many people police catch in the store selling drugs," he said.
Police say 30 percent of the arrests made in last week's "Operation Transformation" were inside or on the property of the store. "When we launched this investigation, I gave the proprietors of the market the opportunity to tell me if there was illegal activity on the premises," Lt. Blakely said. But he said the Hamdans denied any knowledge of drugs during the police investigation.
Council member Ford said M&M Grocery is a store that needs to close for good, so the east-end can move on. Ford said, "There are houses all around the market, and that compounds exponentially the impact they are having, not in a good way." However, Hamdan said it's the neighborhood that is the problem, not his business.
Police charged Imad Hamdan with four counts of welfare fraud and his brother with two counts. "They showed a willingness to do that over and over and over again," Lt. Blakely said. He said they will use all resources available to shut down the store.
"He tried to close the store for EBT or drugs but we don't do drugs, we don't do EBT," Hamdan said.
Lt. Blakely said he will file for administrative action against Hamdan's ABC license.