Decoys hit the streets to bust businesses that sell booze to minors

The underage decoy's first successful attempt Wednesday night at buying alcohol was an emotional one.

"Oh, I feel so bad," the 16-year-old said as she stood in the parking lot of Scolari's Market, her eyes welling with tears. "Why couldn't it have been some young guy? Then I would have been like, 'Yeah, you deserved it.'"

But the first person to neglect to ask for identification during the Carson City Sheriff's Department's alcohol sting wasn't a "young guy."

The 57-year-old clerk was issued a citation for selling alcohol to a minor. The citation carries a $632 fine.

A list of Carson City's 138 establishments that serve alcohol were on the agenda for the third installment of the Sheriff's Department's crackdown on underage drinking.

The first sting was meant to establish the need for the stings.

In the first, young-looking 21-year-olds were sent into area bars, convenience and grocery stores. If the clerks sold them the alcohol, plainclothes deputies entered and warned them they'd better start checking their customers' ages.

The second sting, in which underage decoys were used, netted 12 out of 50 businesses where the clerks sold the teens the alcohol.

Following the sale, a deputy entered and warned the clerk he or she had just sold alcohol to a minor.

In Wednesday's nights operation, there was no such charity.

"This time, cite them," said Sgt. Bob White to the two teams before they hit the streets at 5 p.m.

Deputy Kris Pepper, reserve Deputy Andrew Cunningham and their sensitive Douglas County teenager made the rounds on the north side of town.

With each business, it was the same scenario.

Cunningham entered the businesses moments before the 11th grader and position himself in the aisles or read a magazine. The teen grabbed a 12-pack of Coors Light cans and made her way to the counter.

If the clerk asked her for her identification, she'd hand them her real Nevada driver's license listing her real birth year of 1986.

Before 8 p.m., the north Albertsons and AM PM Mini Market, Safeway, Longs Drugs, Frontier Mini Mart and Eagle Gas Station all denied the sale and asked for identification.

When that was the outcome, Pepper and Cunningham would tell them they'd just refused service to a minor.

A letter from the department will be mailed out to each business commending them on their diligence, Pepper said.

The clerks at Scolari's, Winners Corner on Rand Avenue, 7 Eleven on North Carson Street and the Quik Stop market on Roop weren't so conscientious.

They all sold beer to the minor.

Following each sale, Cunningham would say the same thing to the clerk: "That girl was 16."

According to Cunningham, the clerk at Quik Stop was fired immediately over the phone; the clerk at 7 Eleven said she might as well quit; the Scolari's clerk blamed poor eyesight; and the woman at Winner's Corner said she wasn't paying attention.

Amit Kataria, the 21-year-old clerk at Eagle Gas, foiled the operation when he asked the girl for identification then berated her for even trying to buy beer.

"Honey, you're too young to even buy cigarettes. What are you doing in here buying beer?" the decoy recalled Kataria shouting at her.

But Kataria couldn't be happier about the outcome.

"It's a big ticket," he said excitedly after he learned the whole thing was a set up. "That's too much of a fine for me! I'm glad that I do a good job."

Sgt. White said the department will continue to be tough on underage sales of alcohol.

"We will continue conducting these checks randomly and unannounced until the problem in Carson City is eradicated," he said. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that a person looks under age. It takes one minute to ask a person, 'Can I see your ID?'"


For a list of all the businesses that were visited and which ones passed and failed, read the Friday edition of the Nevada Appeal.


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