A pizzeria in St. Paul, Minnesota, allegedly went to pot as a front for an alleged marijuana dealing family. Now police have weeded out four suspects, including the owner, his mother and grandmother.
On Friday, authorities arrested Ryan Dimitri Brooks Sr., 27, the owner of Papa Dimitri's Classic Pizza and Ice Cream; his mother, Rosalyn Mary Brooks, 61; grandmother Joyce Elaine Merkley, 82, and a woman he lived with, Lena Shalay Kirk, 24, according to TwinCities.com.
They were each charged with multiple felonies including conspiracy to sell marijuana; cocaine possession; engaging in business of concealing criminal proceeds; and illegal possession of a handgun by a felon.
Authorities began investigating Papa Dimitri's Pizza last August after getting a tip that the restaurant was rarely open and didn't seem to do a lot of business, KARE TV reports.
According to the criminal complaint obtained by the station, Papa Dimitri's employees complained about a lack of heat despite the presence of pizza ovens. The workers also chose to eat at a nearby burger restaurant rather than the pizzeria.
Yelp reviews weren't very positive either. One customer griped, "I've defrosted better pizza on my engine block. A cracker thin crust with greasy cheese. Overpriced and slow as heck."
During a six days in November, investigators said the restaurant counted five customers and and four deliveries, KARE TV reports.
"My initial thought was how does this business stay afloat when I first saw it," Franz Rauch, manager of a neighboring computer store, told the station.
Ryan Brooks took over the pizza parlor in 2010 and deposited $189,891.82 in cash in bank accounts between Jan. 1, 2013 and Oct. 31, 2014, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
In October, a U.S. Postal Inspector told police that the Postal Service had intercepted three packages sent to Merkley's home and one to the pizzeria containing more than 37 pounds of marijuana.
In November, another package addressed to Merkley containing five pounds of marijuana had been intercepted before reaching her home, the newspaper reports.
A correctional officer who knew Brooks when he was in jail several years ago said that the suspect allegedly admitted he had previous used a pizza parlor to launder drug money. The officer also alleged that Brooks had "utilized pizza boxes and bags to deliver marijuana under the guise of making pizza deliveries,” according to the Duluth News Tribune.
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