Mayor revokes liquor license of store owner accused of stocking stolen baby formula

Store owner denies threatening man

Ehssan "Sammy" Hamdan, the owner of Sammy's Market, denies he threatened a man who testified he believed Hamdan had threatened him.
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Ehssan "Sammy" Hamdan, the owner of Sammy's Market, denies he threatened a man who testified he believed Hamdan had threatened him.

Mayor Mark Eckert on Friday revoked the liquor license for Ehssan “Sammy” Hamdan, who owns Sammy’s Market and is under investigation for recruiting people to steal baby formula from other stores and then stocking the formula in his convenience store.

Hamdan has not been charged with any crimes but Belleville Police Detective Shane Brown testified during a public hearing about Hamdan’s license on Thursday that the case remains under investigation.

Neither Hamdan nor his attorney, Jack Kloess of Belleville, could be reached for comment on Friday. They declined to comment after the hearing Thursday.

Eckert said he based his decision on the evidence of criminal actions presented during Thursday’s hearing.

“...There is substantial evidence to adequately support the conclusion that the licensee is a person who is not of good character/reputation” as required by license holders, Eckert said in his order.

The order also states there is “substantial evidence” that Hamdan violated state laws regarding theft and money laundering.

“I have much concern about the seriousness of these charges,” Eckert said in an interview. “He’s not saying these things didn’t happen. We have statements from his family, other witnesses” and a police officer, he added.

“I just decided for now this store needs to remain closed,” Eckert said. “I’m doing what I think is the best thing for the neighborhood and for the city.”

The store at 530 N. Douglas Ave. will remain closed because Hamdan’s commercial occupancy permit was pulled because unauthorized sewer line work and electrical work was done at the store, Eckert said.

Brown testified that two people were arrested June 30 at Walmart in connection with an earlier theft of baby formula at the store.

“They stated they were provided a shopping list from Sammy himself and what Enfamil products to go out and steal,” Brown said. “They gave me a detailed explanation of the products they were given, how much they are paid by Mr. Hamdan for those products and other items that he requested they go out and steal.”

Brown said the two people would receive $3, $5 or $6 for a container of baby formula. He said the containers usually are valued at $18 to $32.

The detective said police had been investigating a rash of baby formula thefts across the city in June.

Hamdan, 23, was taken into custody but then released after two search warrants were obtained in late June and early July, Brown said.

Hamdan first was given permission to get a liquor license in July 2015. The license was suspended last month by Eckert, who serves as the city’s liquor commissioner.

Eckert’s order said the license was pulled last month because there was a reasonable belief that Hamdan’s store would “immediately threaten the welfare of the community” and that “criminal activity” occurred at the store.

Ward 7 Alderman Phil Elmore was the only alderman to vote against granting permission to Hamdan to get a liquor license. Elmore said he voted “no” on the request because there were residents who did not want the store to sell alcohol.

Elmore was pleased with the mayor’s ruling.

“I think the decision was clear and swift and there did not seem to be much gray area,” Elmore said. “The law is clear. The testimony was clear and the decision was a good one by the mayor.” He also commended Brown for his “thorough and professional” investigation.

Eckert said his ruling can be appealed to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission.