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Owners of raided sandwich shop arrested

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The owners of a West Side sandwich shop raided by police were arrested Wednesday on charges of violating bail after a Kanawha County magistrate granted them 15 days to vacate their business.

Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster said the shop is a front for a "continuing criminal enterprise."

The owners of Miss Sylvia's Sandwich Shop -- Rodney Armstrong, 43, and Emma Laughlin, 36, both of Charleston -- were in magistrate court for an eviction hearing regarding their West Washington Street shop Wednesday.

Property owner Sharon Whiting requested the eviction after police said Armstrong and Laughlin operated an illegal after-hours bar that was the scene of a shooting in July. The shop does not have a liquor license.

On Sunday, a Charleston Police SWAT team raided the shop and allegedly discovered a large amount of liquor, several handguns and scattered amounts of marijuana.

Armstrong and Laughlin were charged with illegally selling alcohol, a misdemeanor, and released on a $7,500 bail.

After Wednesday's eviction hearing, police arrested the pair inside the courthouse parking garage for allegedly violating bail conditions from their July arrest on the same charges.

Two confidential informants told police that Armstrong and Laughlin charged patrons a $5 entry fee, Webster said. If the patron carried a gun, they would be charged $50.

"Our informant explained to us that they used red cups and people paid certain amounts for beer and certain amounts for a shot," Webster said. "When we raided it, we found a whole lot of liquor and red cups consistent with what the informant told us."

Armstrong and Laughlin told police that they did not sell alcohol illegally and patrons brought their own to the shop. Webster said there's overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

"They are kind of thumbing their nose up at us," he said. "Like they wouldn't let us in the other day, that's why we had to break their window to get in. We didn't want to do that."

Police said about 50 people were inside the shop when they raided it early Sunday. Police recovered at least one gun that was reported stolen, Webster said. Armstrong and Laughlin are being held in South Central Regional Jail.

They had requested a month to clean out their business, but Sisson said 15 days was enough to move their furniture and equipment. Armstrong asked about money he invested in renovations at the shop and Sisson told him to raise the matter in civil court.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.

 


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