The manager is also being investigated on possible election falsification.
By ED RUNYAN
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
HUBBARD -- Officers with the city police department, Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force and Ohio Department of Public Safety arrested the manager of Hubbard Gas & amp; Mini Mart, 175 Youngstown-Hubbard Road, on drug and illegal use of food stamp charges.
Lt. Robin Lees, of the Youngstown Police Department and the task force, said the Tuesday afternoon arrest of Gurmit Singh, 50, of Poland, followed a 14-month investigation.
Hubbard Patrolman Robert Thompson said he began to investigate allegations that drugs were being sold out of the store 14 months ago. Thompson, a member of the task force, also called for help from the Ohio Department of Public Safety when the food stamp allegations surfaced.
Lees said Singh, known as Mike and who has managed the store for about 10 years, is accused of selling a prescription version of morphine. He is being charged with one count of trafficking in drugs, Lees said.
Authorities closed the store for a couple of hours Tuesday to serve an arrest warrant on Singh, who was taken to the Trumbull County Jail to await arraignment.
Rita Raimer of the Ohio Department of Public Safety said Singh had exchanged food stamps for nonfood products such as gasoline and cash, generally at half of the face value of the food stamps. Neither she nor Lees would estimate a dollar amount of the alleged illegal activity.
Singh also faces a charge of possession of criminal tools in relation to the state equipment that he reportedly used to swipe food stamp cards when they were redeemed, Lees said.
Singh was also referred to the Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office last week by the Trumbull County Board of Elections after elections officials noticed some signatures on a petition for a local liquor option for the store did not match the signatures the elections board had on file.
In checking with Singh, elections officials said, Singh admitted that an employee had circulated the petitions but had died Aug. 21, before completing the job, so he signed them himself.
Singh told The Vindicator last week that the employee died four days before the deadline to turn in the petitions. "I signed because someone had to sign it," he said. "I didn't look at it." The discovery caused the elections board to take the liquor option off of the ballot in November.
Elections officials say if a person signs a petition indicating that they are the circulator but in fact did not witness the signatures, that is a crime called election falsification, a felony.
Lees said officials don't know how much money Singh made through the drug sales or illegal use of food stamps, but it is believed he was sending money to his home country. Lees said he doesn't know what country Singh is from.
Because of Singh's previous conviction on wire fraud and illegal entry into the United States dating to the 1990s in California, officers are continuing to look at where Singh was sending the money, Lees said without elaborating.