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ABC liquor store employee accused of robbing another ABC liquor store at gunpoint

TAMPA — Not long ago, an ABC Fine Wines & Spirits store in east Tampa got robbed. The robber and a clerk traded gunfire.

The wounded robber escaped.

Police later said the robber was one of ABC's own employees, from a South Tampa store.

That robber was also a repeat felon who served prison time in New Jersey for robbery and other crimes, according to court records that are now part of a federal case against him.

Abdul Farid Naim Muhammad, 38, was indicted this week in connection with the April 19 robbery of the store at 3727 E Hillsborough Ave.

He worked at an ABC on Kennedy Boulevard, until he robbed his employer, authorities said.

The company didn't know about Muhammad's criminal record, chief marketing officer Bob Gibson said.

Felonies older than seven years aren't conveyed to ABC by the firm that provides background checks, Gibson said. That's intended to satisfy federal anti-discrimination and fair credit reporting guidelines, he said.

Muhammad's last conviction was in 2000. Gibson said he couldn't disclose whether Muhammad reported it on his job application, but he said, "Generically speaking, more than likely he would not have been hired if we knew it."

He said ABC wants to keep a safe work environment for its team members.

On the day of the robbery, an armed man with a towel over his face entered the store and ordered three employees to open the cash registers and get on the floor, Tampa police reported. One employee, Bernard Hart, shot at the robber, who returned fire, wounding Hart and employee Efrain Gonzalez, the report said.

Three days later, investigators learned that Muhammad, using a false name, had sought treatment for a wounded hand.

Muhammad told Tampa police he didn't intend to hurt anyone and that he returned fire out of instinct, they reported.

He told police he robbed the store because he didn't want to go home without food for his family, police said. But investigators learned he was on ABC's payroll and concluded he had special knowledge of how a company store operated.

His prior criminal history, which also included two gun charges, caught the attention of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which regularly partners with local police to propel serious gun crimes to federal court, where penalties may be tougher.

The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office opened a case against Muhammad but dropped it after federal charges were filed.

Muhammad could face up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted of the most serious charge against him: interfering with commerce by robbery. He's also charged with firing a gun in a crime of violence, punishable by at least five years, and being a felon with ammunition, punishable by up to 10 years.

The ATF filed a criminal complaint against him in May. He has been held since then in the Pinellas County Jail. A grand jury indicted him on Tuesday.

Patty Ryan can be reached at (813) 226-3382 or pryan@tampabay.com.

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