Informers working with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office in recent weeks helped authorities cite three employees of local stores for selling alcohol to minors.
The undercover investigation, on Oct. 11 and Oct. 18, was done in cooperation with the Hernando County Community Anti-Drug Coalition and targeted 21 stores in Brooksville and Spring Hill.
According to a Sheriff's Office report, Bonnie Joan Melching, 41, an employee at Hess Express, 18635 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville; Jayendrakumar Patel, 40, an employee at the BP station at 1394 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, and Joseph Nathan Revell Jr., 42, an employee at the Lil Green Store, 204 East Ave., Brooksville, received citations for selling alcohol to minors.
In addition, Melching was found to have a warrant for failure to pay child support and was arrested. Patel was arrested for not having any valid identification; he claimed not to be a U.S. citizen.
In lieu of criminal charges, the employees who sold alcohol to the underage investigative aide were given an opportunity to attend a training class conducted by the antidrug coalition.
"Underage drinking is not a new problem; it has been occurring for decades" Sheriff Al Nienhuis said in a news release.
"As a law enforcement agency, we have to be vigilant to the fact underage drinking is still very much alive in our communities.
"We will continue to monitor our local retail and convenience stores in an effort to make consuming alcoholic beverages more difficult for juveniles."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.