Suspects of Convenience

The sting targeted stores selling over-the-counter medicines that could be cooked into meth. But the cops warned major retailers to stop the sales while throwing the book at mom-and-pop shops, most of which are owned by Arab immigrants.

Fay Alyas' attorney, Ted Jarvi, asked the couple to stand up. "They are mom and pop," he said, as they faced the judge. "The articulable harm is the destruction of their ideal of the American dream."

Judge Hilliard dismissed the cases shortly after the hearing. But she left the door open for prosecutors to return to Superior Court and hope for friendlier judges if the feds don't prosecute all of the Mini Thins defendants.

Back at Work
It is an early Saturday night in mid-May, and business is hopping at the E-Z Stop market. All four Alyases--Amir, Fay and their two sons--are in the store.

Amir has ordered out for Chinese food. It marks a precious time when the family can eat in the same room at the same time. The parents swallow a bite or two between customers.

The Alyases know many of their customers. There's Marie, the registered nurse who just got off duty and is buying her usual bottle of Guinness. There's a skinny, longhaired kid who's trying again to kick his nicotine habit. There's a fellow who's invited the Alyases to his wedding.

"How long you been know us?" he asks his regular customers one by one, for a visitor's benefit. "How good people are we?"

Marie, the nurse, knows what Amir is getting at.
"These people are the best," she says. "You watch. The [Alyases] treat the guy in the three-piece the same as the bum who hands them a bunch of dirty pennies for a cup of coffee. The government screwed them royally, and for what?"

Last November, the Alyases agreed to pay the state $3,382--$382 was what the couple charged the narcs for the Mini Thins, Sudafed and Actifed, and $3,000 for "the reasonable costs and expenses of the prosecution and investigation of this action." The agreement ended the government's civil forfeiture proceedings against them.

"We can't fight everything or we shut down," Amir explains. "You know. Money." He paid off the State of Arizona in monthly checks, on which he noted cynically, "Re: Selling Cold Medicines."

"You ask my customers how I am," Amir Alyas repeats. "I am a good heart. I smile at people. If police tell me, 'There is new law,' I listen. We not that type of people to know drugs. But we're not white, not Mexican; we have no people in government; we have no one to speak for us. We are very little people here."

Contact Paul Rubin at his online address: prubin@newtimes.com

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