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Residents shocked over supermarket closing

Officials say they found disturbing conditions

LAWTEY, Fla. – A Jacksonville man is facing charges in Bradford County related to EBT fraud at a Lawtey Supermarket that has now closed its doors due to different and even more disturbing charges uncovered during the EBT investigations.

Ameer Issa went before a judge Thursday morning charged with several felonies including engaging in public aid fraud, authorities said.

The Bradford County Sheriff's Office said Issa charged several unauthorized purchases to EBT cards at the supermarket on Madison Street just off 301.

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The store is now closed, because while the Sheriff's Office was there, they said they discovered major problems with the way raw meat was being handled inside of the store.

Several state agencies are now investigating the only supermarket in Lawtey, including the Department of Agriculture.

Several people have asked why the only supermarket in Lawtey abruptly closed its doors.

"I thought it was a robbery actually. We don't get too much excitement here in Lawtey," a local resident who didn't want to be named said.

Excitement met with confusion, then quickly turned into shock after Bradford County Sheriff's deputies confirmed the problems with the way meat was being handled inside of the store.

According to the Sheriff's Office, investigators found evidence of unsanitary conditions, including a pan that was being used to prepare meat that had been placed on top of a garbage can.

They also said that expired meat was being repackaged and new dates were being added.

One deputy said that he personally saw some fish that had expired back in December, a five-month difference."

Neighbors and frequent shoppers of the store are very concerned about the allegations.

"When it first happened, the employees were talking about all kinds of stuff. Homeland Security, this, that and the other. So I didn't really know, but to hear all of that, it's very gross," Mike Starling, a shopper, said.

"We ain't never got sick from it. But my sister bought some chicken strips the other day and they had the word beef printed on it," an unidentified shopper said.

Because the Lawtey Supermarket is the only one of its kind in the city, shoppers are now forced to go out of their way to pick up food.

The Winn-Dixie on West Madison Street in Starke is about 15 minutes away and the same is true for the Walmart Supercenter on 301 South, also in Starke. There is also the Delta Food Store on East Brownlee Street in Starke that is 11 minutes away.

News4Jax did briefly speak to two men inside the store Thursday who said they are the new owners of the store and that they just bought the store just two weeks ago and were shocked by everything that happened yesterday. They said they're still trying to sort through everything that has happened.
 


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