01/30/2012 10:43 pm ET

Tenderloin Markets Sued: City Attorney Alleges Sale Of Illegal Drugs And Stolen Goods

According to San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, two Tenderloin corner stores are slinging more then turkey sandwiches and tall cans of Tecate.

On Monday, Herrea filed civil lawsuits against Barah Market (200 Leavenworth St.) and Razan Deli (391 Ellis St.), alleging both businesses served as fronts for the sale of illegal narcotics and fencing stolen goods.

"The markets we are suing today have played central roles in drug dealing and other crimes that have afflicted this neighborhood for too long," said Herrera in a statement. "Barah Market and Razan Deli are profiting illegally from a drug trade that devastates human lives, and puts enormous burdens on our police and public health services. Their lawlessness shows contempt for the health and safety of neighbors--especially nearby children and seniors--and diminishes this neighborhood's quality of life."

The lawsuits come on the heels of an extended, two-year police investigation where undercover SFPD offices routinely purchased marijuana, cocaine, crack and prescription drugs in and around the stores.

KTVU reports:

Officers also sold merchandise they claimed was stolen from nearby Walgreens stores to market employees, who encouraged them to return with more stolen goods to sell, according to the lawsuits.

Herrera hopes shut both businesses down for a full year, dole out over $25,000 in penalties for maintaining a public nuisance and other additional violations, give back all the profits from said illegal activities and pay for the full cost of the investigation.

"These businesses deserve to be closed," SFPD Chief Greg Suhr told the Bay Citizen at a Monday morning press conference announcing the prosecution. "The Tenderloin will be better off without these irresponsible businesses."

Not everyone agreed with Suhr's characterization of these two stores as sources of the neighborhood's ills. Fog City Journal reports:

A regular customer of Barah's Market painted a different story and defended the proprietor.

"This is a good store. I've never seen anything happen here," said Tony Montesinos, a caseworker with Hospitality House. "Maybe things are going on late at night but if you come around late at night, it's a nut house. It's a mad house, this neighborhood. These four corners are terrible at night and during the day. They all loiter in front, but you can't doing [sic] nothing about that."

These civil complaints don't preclude the District Attorney's office from filing criminal charges and are a critical strategy used by city officials when combating a business's alleged wrongdoing.

"It's often an effective tool for a party that's engaging in an business practice that's against the law because we can get a disgorgement of their profits," City Attorney spokesperson Matt Dorsey told the Huffington Post. "It sends a message to businesses that engage in these practices that just arresting a few drug dealers can't accomplish. You can't lock up a store."