EAST ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- More than 100 police officers and agents raided some of the most popular nightclubs in East Saint Louis over the weekend, but that was only part of an ongoing criminal investigation into corruption, illegal drugs and violence in the city.
Heavily armed state troopers guarded the entrance to Posh, one of the hottest night spots in East Saint Louis. It was one out of three clubs raided by law enforcement early Sunday.
Rolex and 103, other nightlife spots, were also searched by police, who were looking for illegal drugs, weapons and other evidence described in search warrants.
Those warrants detailed the recent history of violence and illegal drug use at each club, including a murder just three months ago in the parking lot of 103.
The criminal investigation also prompted 57 charges against three Crown Food Marts, and four Crown employees.
The counts include possession and intent to sell illegal drugs. One of the workers, Majed Abusaid, also known as ‘Mike Said,’ lives in a $700,000 home in west St. Louis County. Wednesday, Mayor Alvin Parks announced that the two downtown stores had their liquor licenses suspended for 20 days, and the third store at 8301 State St. won't be able to sell alcohol for 30 days. The fines total $4,500.
“When we see things that are just egregious we know that we will deal with them,” Parks said.
The raids are part of a larger inter-agency effort to attack corruption and violent crime that investigators insist is made even worse by the environment found in these overnight clubs. But the grand jury can also consider other public nuisances, too, like the hundreds of vacant properties throughout the East St. Louis area that owners never seem to fix.
News 4 tried repeatedly to get an on-camera interview with the family that owns and operates the Sieron Companies, a business that owns about 500 pieces of property in the East St. Louis area. But company president John Sieron refused.
Sieron isn't the only company with a portfolio run-down properties. News 4 drove around much of the city in recent weeks documenting deteriorated conditions throughout the city and surrounding villages. Structures abandoned by dozens of owners, some of whom live in the city; others live in wealthy communities far from St. Louis.
Many of those buildings have burned, and have not been repaired afterward.
The tanner family lives next to some of these homes. They bought their home 30 years ago, and take good care of it, but most of the block is abandoned, and two of the vacant houses right next to them recently caught on fire.
“When people come from out of town they always ask the same question, 'what is this over here?'” Ms. Tanner said. “I say it's vacant houses, we can't seem to get anything done.”
One of the neighboring houses has a code violation notice on it, dated last September. The owner had 10 days to repair the violations
“Clearly they didn't fix any of it. And this is the end of May. What does that tell you?” she said. “That nobody follows through on anything around here. I'm not surprised.”
East Saint Louis Regulatory Affairs Director Robert Betts says the city is overwhelmed with the problem. He says the city has suspended demolitions.
Betts says budget cuts have gutted his office, which now depends on volunteers to do some of the government work.
The state's attorney’s office is investigating the ownership and management of rundown properties. It's unclear if any of those cases will go before this grand jury, but the broad language allowing the grand jury to consider other public nuisances appears to open the door to an investigation of abandoned houses.