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Mountain View community calls for closing store at center of drug, fraud probe

"Mike's Market's a problem."

That's what community members in Mountain View told Steve Marron. He's a pastor at Bridge Church, which sits diagonally across the street from Mike's Market on Ocean View Boulevard.

He took over the church 1½ years ago, but he said that's a common theme he hears from residents when he goes around the neighborhood.

“We were literally hearing all of the community members north of Mike's Market, east, west, south," he said. "We would hit all directions.”

Shootings and gang and drug activities have plagued that corner of Mountain View for years. Police say at the center of it all is Mike’s Market.

On Monday, prosecutors indicted 22 individuals on 221 felony charges ranging from drug trafficking to attempted murder to gun charges and robbery.

Police and prosecutors alleged that store clerks at Mike's Market were working directly with gangs to sell drugs through Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT — which is used by the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“What became clear was that this business was not a neighborhood grocery store at all," Deputy District Attorney Robert Hickey said at the news briefing Monday. "Instead, it was a place where employees were committing massive fraud, stealing nearly $2 million in food assistance benefits for themselves.”

One of the people indicted was Loay Alosh, the owner of Mike's Market. Police say they have received more than 1,000 calls for service within 500 feet of Mike's Market in the past two years.

In the past four years, there have been 10 shootings at or near the store, according to the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) — one in 2019, two in 2020, three in 2021 and four so far this year.

"There were three homicides within the last twelve months. Jimmy Roberts and Dorian Franklin were killed in front of Mike's Market. Rahman Thomas was killed a half a block away," San Diego police Chief David Nisleit said Monday.

After two gang shootings in front of the Market in February that left a man dead, Marron held a community meeting to address the violence in the area.

IMG_20221101_154554.jpg
Courtesy of Steve Marron
Mayor Todd Gloria speaking to Mountain View residents about violent crimes in the area at Bridge Community Center, April 12, 2022.

In attendance at that April meeting were San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera and Nisleit.

Marron said this was what they heard from the community: “Mike's Market was definitely a place that would harbor a lot of certain behaviors, but also it would be a place for not only crime, but a place that perpetuated fear, I guess, in the community.”

All three promised to take action that night. At the news conference on Monday, Gloria said they delivered on that promise.

"I recognize our work is not done — mission is not accomplished," he said. "We have more work to do in the neighborhood, but it will be made infinitely easier because these people are off the streets."

Despite the arrests, Marron said the community is still a bit on edge. Mike’s Market is still open for now.

I think that to close it down would be a strong message to the community,” he said.

Elo-Rivera, whose council district includes Mike's Market, said he would support whatever the community wants to do.

“Everybody in every neighborhood deserves to have businesses that respect them, that provide for the needs of the community, and deserve to feel safe in their neighborhoods,” he said.

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