Oakdale extinguishes Smokedale licence

file photo Following recommendations from the Oakdale Police Department, the Oakdale City Council denied renewing Smokedale Tobacco’s tobacco licence at its Oct. 23 meeting. The store, located in the 7100 block of 10th Street North, had long been under scrutiny from law enforcement.

At Oakdale's Oct. 9 city council meeting, Oakdale Police Chief William Sullivan said his department had "revealed a pattern" of unlawful business at Smokedale Tobacco.

Just more than a week later on Oct. 19, Washington County charged Smokedale owner Hatem Amin Younis, 48, with 43 counts of tax evasion. A Department of Revenue audit allegedly found $14 million in under-reported sales and that Younis owed $918,362. 

The Oakdale City Council went on to deny renewing Smokedale's tobacco licence at its Oct. 23 meeting. 


Where there's smoke ...

Sullivan gave a presentation on the department's investigation, which began when Smokedale's tobacco licence was up for renewal at the end of 2017. He said from 2008 through this June, there have been more than 400 calls to police tied to Smokedale.

Smokedale's licence had been extended a few more times, the last extension ending Oct. 31. 

Oakdale police recommended to the council that the store's license shouldn't be renewed in 2018 "or anytime thereafter" based on "many concerns."

On top of the number of police calls to the business and the "general tax liability," were concerns about complaints and reports of underage tobacco and synthetic drug sales, building code violations and criminal sexual conduct complaints made against Younis.

Sullivan said six criminal sexual conduct complaints were filed against him, each allegedly occuring at places under Younis' control, such as his store's warehouse on 10th Street in Oakdale. 

In January, Younis was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct. Sullivan said that case is still in the courts system and that Younis is scheduled to be back in court in December. 

With respect to the allegations of sexual misconduct, Sullivan alleged that Younis has a pattern of being sexually and unlawfully aggressive with women. Allegations range from groping over clothing to unwanted sex acts. 

Sullivan noted that complaints do not imply guilt, and that the majority of allegations were declined for prosecution because of a lack of independent evidence or witnesses. 

"The pattern is nonetheless obvious and disturbing," he said, adding the "privilege of having a tobacco licence in our community should no longer be extended to Mr. Younis."

A representative for Younis said at the Oct. 9 meeting that including sexual conduct complaints in the deliberations over the license, and not convictions, is wrong, and that Smokedale is not a criminal operation that attracts criminals. 

Younis applied to have the tobacco licence transferred to Ibrahim Mohammad Aqel, who Younis claimed to be a business partner.

Sullivan said a review of Younis' business and licence documents never established a business relationship with Aqel.  

The Oakdale council also denied the transfer request on Oct. 23. 


—Solomon Gustavo

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