This article was originally published on www.goerie.com by Tim Hahn on April 8, 2020.
State liquor enforcement officers said an online tip about people selling bottles of liquor illegally and at inflated prices launched an investigation that led to the seizure of 59 bottles from an east Erie residence on March 28.
The probe involved an undercover purchase of seven bottles of alcohol from the residence at a cost of nearly $26 per bottle, according to information outlined in the criminal complaint filed against an Erie man late last week.
On Friday, officers with the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement Erie office charged Tayvon M. Lindsey, 24, with misdemeanor counts of unlawful sales of liquor and unlawful possession or transportation of liquor or alcohol.
The charges were filed in the office of Erie 5th Ward District Judge Paul Bizzarro. A hearing in the case had not been scheduled as of Wednesday.
Lindsey is accused of offering bottles of liquor for sale on Facebook and selling the bottles at a residence at 409 E. 21st St. State liquor enforcement officers in the Erie office served a search warrant on the residence on the afternoon of March 28 and said they seized 59 liquor bottles, totaling 39.7 liters of alcohol, from the residence.
The suspect in the case, identified as Lindsey, was cooperated in the investigation and provided a written statement confessing to selling liquor from the residence since the beginning of March, according to investigators and information contained in a news release the bureau issued on March 30.
Investigators found receipts during the search that they believe show that all of the seized bottles were purchased from stores before being offered for sale, Sgt. William Stuckey, commander of the state police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement’s Erie office, said on March 30. Some of the bottles were purchased in Ohio and were brought to Erie for sale, he said.
Investigators wrote in Lindsey’s criminal complaint that the investigation began after they received a complaint on the bureau’s website on March 23 stating that people who reside at 409 E. 21st St. were posting photos of “massive amounts” of bottles of liquor on Facebook.
The person who filed the complaint wrote that the bottles were being sold out of the house, were being sold during a “governor-mandated closure of all non-life-sustaining businesses” and were being sold at increased prices “due to bars and liquor stores being closed and while social distancing is supposed to be in place,” according to police.
Pennsylvania’s state-owned liquor stores were closed at the end of business on March 17 in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The stores remain closed.
Investigators said they found advertisements for bottles of liquor on two Facebook pages. One page featured a photo of about 50 bottles of various types of liquor, and different posts listed prices and “bundle deals,” investigators wrote in the complaint.
Officers made an undercover purchase of seven bottles of liquor at 409 E. 21st St. on March 28, and paid Lindsey $180 for them, according to the complaint. The officers confirmed that neither Lindsey nor the address had a valid liquor license, and they obtained a search warrant for the residence and served it later that day.
Stuckey said Wednesday that Lindsey was the sole focus of the investigation and that no other charges are expected in the case.