Illegal grocery found in Bloomingburg apartment

Ryan Carter

July 2, 2014

Authorities shut down an alleged unlicensed grocery store Wednesday morning that was being operated from the inside of a Bloomingburg apartment.

At least 1,000 different cans of food products, including vegetables and ethnic foods, were being illegally sold out of Apartment A at 18 Academy Street. It was also discovered that live chickens were being sold from the apartment, according to the Fayette County Health Department. Soda pop and energy drinks were also being refrigerated inside of the residence, and there was an area set up with a cash register and various receipts.

The Fayette County Health Department was notified of the unlicensed retail store a couple of weeks ago. “We gave the owner a couple of weeks to cease and desist,” said Rick Garrison, the Environmental Director at the Fayette County Health Department. “We were actually notified by a customer.”

However, the resident of the apartment and alleged operator of the store, Jose Medina, continued the operation, which prompted the Health Department to take action on Wednesday morning. Fayette County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Beathard granted a temporary restraining order that was filed by the Fayette County Prosecutor’s Office on behalf of the Health Department.

The civil order directed Jose and Rosa Medina (who is also named on the order) to cease their operation inside of the apartment.

Health Department officials were accompanied by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, the Fayette Humane Society and the Immigration & Customs Enforcement office out of Columbus.

When authorities arrived Wednesday, they found six chickens inside of cages at the apartment.

“It was the first time we’ve seen anything like this,” said Leigh Cannon, Deputy Health Commissioner. “The main issue is that this cannot be licensed because it’s being operated out of a private residence. You can’t sell these products without a license and you can’t sell them out of a private residence. From a health perspective, there is no way we can control a situation like this, so it has to be shut down.”

Medina was at the residence when authorities arrived Wednesday, but was not arrested. According to the FCSO, any criminal charges will be determined by the Fayette County Prosecutor’s Office after the case is reviewed.

“This is a continuing investigation,” said FCSO Chief Deputy Andy Bivens. “What we retrieve from the scene will be forwarded to the prosecutor for further action.”

The Health Department will keep all of the non-perishable food items in inventory until Rosa’s court date on July 14. During that time, the Health Department will request to release the products.

Although the Humane Society was on the scene, no animal cruelty charges have been brought against Medina at this time.

“The owner was advised accordingly that the chickens need a larger cage and need access to water at all times,” said Brad Adams, Humane Officer. “Arrangements have been made as far as a place to take the chickens until this matter is resolved.”