Alcohol sting busts businesses for underage sales

Michelle Seeber

Four out of five Portales business employees sold alcohol to minors during an undercover sting conducted over the weekend, resulting in citations for both the business owners and the employees who sold the liquor.
The only business to pass the undercover sting was Wal-Mart, leaving employees and owners of Town & Country, IGA, Cattle Baron Steak & Seafood and Goober McCool’s with court dates and possible fines and community service on the horizon.
Employees at the Town & Country and Cattle Baron checked the minor’s identification and still sold liquor, New Mexico State Police officials said.
At IGA and Goober’s the employees sold without even asking for any identification, officials said.
New Mexico State Police agent D. Ledezma-Pinon said a Wal-Mart employee passed the test after checking the age of a male minor attempting to buy a can of Mickey’s Malt Liquor at the checkout line. The employee appropriately declined the sale, Ledezma-Pinon said.
The sting, called “shoulder tap,” is an effort to make sure alcohol enforcement measures are met, said Capt. Oscar Gonzales, district commander of the Clovis District of the New Mexico State Police.
None of the managers or owners of the businesses would comment on the sting, except Troy Hinton, owner of IGA, who viewed a video tape of the sale and said the minor looked older than 21.
“Obviously the person looks older than they are, because it happened everywhere,” Hinton said.
“I viewed a video tape of that night, and she (IGA employee) carded two people in front of her, but she didn’t card him. We routinely turn down sales because of no I.D.’s or improper dates.”
Hinton said the employee wasn’t feeling well that night and simply made a mistake.
“No she didn’t get fired,” he added, noting that a comment was made in her employee file.
Hinton said he will not fight the charges but will reinforce to IGA employees to card anyone who appears to be younger than 30.
Ledezma-Pinon said the employees charged with selling the alcohol were issued citations that will be handled through the Roosevelt County Magistrate Court in Portales.
They face fines between $100 and $1,000, possibly 20 hours of community service and contribution to programs devoted to the fight against driving while intoxicated.
The business owners were issued administrative citations and will be dealt with by the Alcohol and Gaming Division of the Regulation and Licensing Department of Santa Fe. They could be fined $500 and up and possibly given a one-day suspension on liquor sales.