News 12 at 6, November 5, 2008
AUGUSTA --- The combination of alcohol and minors can be a deadly mixture. That's exactly why law enforcement agents work to make sure businesses aren't putting it in the hands of anyone under the age of 21.
About a year ago, we took you along as we went undercover with the Georgia Department of Revenue's Alcohol and Tobacco Division. A third of the businesses that we checked sold alcohol to a minor.
Recently, we went back to check them again and the amount of repeat offenders may surprise you.
When Special Agent Jason Dykes comes through your doors saying you sold alcohol to an underage, chances are your day is about to get worse.
Agent Dykes works for the Alcohol and Tobacco Division of the Georgia Department of Revenue. He busts businesses selling alcohol to minors.
"We try to make it tough, but for some unfortunately some businesses give it away." he said.
A year ago, we tagged along with Jason and other ATD agents on an undercover sting.
7 out of the 21 businesses sold alcohol to a minor. This time we're re-checking those businesses and another that failed at a different time.
Here's how it works. We put a hidden microphone on underage and undercover agent. We send in a 12 On Your Side producer to follow with a hidden camera. After that, we sit outside in a unmarked car with another camera to see what happens.
The agent goes inside to try to make a buy. Sometimes the law is obeyed. And sometimes it isn't.
"I'm Agent Dykes with the Department of Revenue. I need to see some i.d." Jason says as he walks in to one business that sold to a minor.
The first stop on the sting was a Kangaroo on Washington Road.
"You sold alcohol to an underage." Agent Dykes said to the clerk who made the sale.
"I did?" she responded.
"Yes ma'am." he said in reply.
The clerk made the sale, but didn't seem to have a clue what happened.
"Honestly, I don't remember selling to anyone under 21," she told 12 On Your Side afterward.
But she did and now she and the business face hefty fines.
The next stop, The First Stop on Gordon Highway
"Ms. Patel, you sold alcohol to an underage," Agent Dykes told the clerk.
"I checked every I.D.," she said.
Except for the one of our undercover agent. Which clearly violates store policy and the law.
Next on the list, Teresa's Mexican Restaurant on Walton Way.
Another stop, another citation.
"What you're doing is illegal, but the repercussions are so much bigger than just getting a ticket," Agent Dykes said.
That's why when the underage agent gets served at a place like Somewhere in Augusta, swift action is taken.
But out of all the stops we made the OK Mart on Lumpkin Road, had the most problems.
First selling beer to the underage agent. Then, a quick search of the store found more including an illegal lottery game.
"They're running their own type of raffle," another agent told us.
Then, inside some paper bags, which agents say are prepackaged pipes for smoking crack.
"They take the glass rolls. Use it to light up their crack or cocaine. It's illegal to sell these packaged in stores," another Agent said.
"It is disappointing. We were hoping they'd get the message the first time," Agent Dykes said.
All-in-all, five out of the eight businesses that were tested failed again. If the clerks are first time offenders, they could face a $500 fine. The businesses are looking at a $1000 fine and a possible suspension of their liquor licenses.