Mesa police arrested three co-owners of a shoe store Thursday on suspicion of selling “crack” cocaine out of the business instead of merchandise.
Investigators raided La Tiendita Shoes, 1241 E. Broadway, after monitoring the business for weeks, police said. Mesa detective Diana Tapia said that the store was a well-known location to buy crack, and several undercover officers were able to buy the drug from store employees during that period.
Little merchandise was on sale inside the store, and employees often bartered stolen goods for drugs, police said.
Once authorities arrested the store owners, officers posed as employees for several hours and sold phony drugs to 14 people, who were then arrested on felony counts of drug possession.
Store owners Julio Garcia-Valenzuela, 23; Virgina Valenzuela-DeGarcia, 43; and Alma Vlaenzuela-Acuna, 48; were booked on suspicion of three counts of transporting or selling narcotic drugs, one count of trafficking stolen property and one count of possession of narcotic drugs to sell.