GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – The sign outside V & J Food Store says its specialty tobacco products are "simply the best." But police say much of the "specialty" cigars and cigarettes sold here came from questionable sources.
A case spanning nearly two years ended with a raid on the small strip mall in Clay County. It’s owned and operated by brothers Abas and Yousef Issa.
Action News reporter Ryan Smith obtained more than a dozen affidavits and two police reports from the Clay County courthouse Tuesday. The documents detail a string of illegal purchases – tens of thousands of tobacco products, even electronics.
According to an affidavit, Antoun Arbaji owns Fina – a convenience store located just down the road from where Thursday’s raid took place.
His arrest warrant states an undercover informant sold him stolen EBT cards and Home Depot gift cards.
His employee tells me she's shocked. Debbie Weston now worries her boss' arrest could jeopardize her job, one she's relied on for almost 10 years.
“Very shocked about it,” said Weston. “I just come to work and go home.”
According to the arrest warrants, the majority of undercover deals went down at V & J Food Store.
On one occasion, the documents state, an undercover detective sold more than 87,000 cigars and cigarillos, said to be stolen from the Swisher manufacturing plant in Jacksonville. Plus, a flat screen TV all for $9 thousand.
According to the police report, the detective offered stolen electronics to the Issa brothers. Abas, the man police call the criminal leader, said he'd buy anything, but "they had to be at a good price."
Abas Issa, of Orange Park, faces six counts of organized dealing in stolen property and one count of racketeering. The racketeering charge carries a $1 million bond.
Yousef Issa, of Fleming Island, faces four counts of organized dealing in stolen property and one count of racketeering.
Emad Abdulijaber, of Jacksonville, faces one count of organized dealing in stolen property. His bond is set at $100,000.
Antoun Arbaji, of Jacksonville, is facing three counts of organized dealing in stolen property and one count of racketeering.