By Daniel Katzive
The Manhattan district attorney’s office on Tuesday announced the resolution of a criminal investigation into a number of unlicensed cannabis stores on the Upper West Side. The owner has agreed to pay over $400,000 and to stop selling cannabis products.
Rami Alzandani, owner of 10 stores in Manhattan, including five on the Upper West Side, entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the DA’s office. Under the agreement, Alzandani will pay $103,000 in restitution to the New York State Department of Tax and Finance, and forfeit an additional $300,000 in illegal proceeds. Four of the stores, including two located on the UWS, pled guilty to one count of Criminal Possession of Cannabis in the Second Degree and were sentenced to a conditional discharge and a $5,000 fine.
All the stores can remain open but are explicitly barred from selling cannabis products and will be subject to continued unannounced inspections for three years. Alzandani must get approval from the DA’s office before selling his stores.
The stores on the Upper West Side that were subject to this agreement were:
- Lincoln Convenience, at Broadway and West 70th Street;
- West Coast Convenience, at 176 West 72nd Street;
- Jacks Convenience, at Broadway and 109th;
- Ignite Convenience, at 214 West 72nd Street; and,
- Amsterdam Varieties, at 228 Amsterdam Avenue (note WSR was not able to locate this exact address or find any establishment with that name in the area where that address would be).
The DA also indicated that, in addition to Alzandani’s stores, three cannabis sellers were evicted by their landlords or were in the process of being evicted and that the office was also pursuing other similar criminal prosecutions.
This week’s news comes about seven months after a sweep of five Upper West Side smoke shops by the NYPD and New York City Sheriff’s Office. That operation, as covered by the WSR at the time, resulted in confiscation of over $200,000 worth of THC products, untaxed cigarettes, and flavored vapes and $16,000 in fines. The bulk of the seizures in that January sweep came from stores not included in this week’s agreement.
Referring to this week’s operation, District 6 City Councilmember Gale Brewer said in a statement “I believe we are seeing a turning point when it comes to illegal shops, and this investigation shows something we have suspected all along, which is common ownership of multiple unlicensed stores.”