3 of 5 establishments sold alcohol to minors
The Seneca Police Department recently received information from the Seneca School District’s resource officer that some local liquor establishments were selling alcohol to miners.
“When we heard kids were buying alcohol we decided to do an alcohol sting, where we send in undercover minors to attempt to buy alcohol,” said James Altic, Seneca police chief.
The minors were escorted to every establishment inside the city limits of Seneca that had a license to distribute adult beverages.
“I wanted to use kids that looked their age, not someone who looked 10 years older than what they were,” said Altic.
They went into five establishments that sold alcohol and out of the five, three sold alcohol to the minors under cover.
“Darla’s Liquor, Lost Creek Liquor, and Jailhouse Saloon sold alcohol to minors, and each clerk at the establishment was charged with sale of liquor to a minor,” said Altic.
At Darla’s Liquor, Toni Benge, 29, of Wyandotte, was the clerk that sold alcohol to the juveniles, according to Altic. At Lost Creek Liquor, Ella Barker, 60, of Neosho, was also charged with the same offense and at Jailhouse Saloon, Megan Yow, 23, of Seneca, was charged.
“All clerks were charged and they will have to appear in court and depending on what the judge decides, they could get a fine up to $550,” said Altic.
As for the businesses themselves, the police department will continue to monitor these establishments and have reported them to the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, which keeps track of infractions/violations each establishment has made.
“We can’t take away their liquor license, but we do report it to the state and then depending on how many violations/infractions that establishment has, the state will decide if they lose their license,” said Altic.
The city can, however, take away each establishment’s business license and that would prevent them from legally operating a business in the city limits.
“We talked about taking away the licenses but decided not to do it right now as long as they fix the problem, which I believe they will,” said Altic.
The City of Seneca tries to work with every business to help them succeed, he said, but the Seneca Police Department has a zero tolerance policy for the sale of alcohol to minors and will continue to watch and monitor all three establishments.
“Jailhouse Saloon and Lost Creek Liquor have been open less than a year, and Darla’s has been open for several years and all have told us that it will not happen again,” said Altic.
In an unrelated case, Altic said the department has also arrested 43-year-old Keith Albert Shifflett, of rural Seneca, and charged him with first degree statutory rape/sodomy of an 11-year-old girl.
“We got a mandated report from the Missouri Department of Family Services and Sergeant Robert Wilson and Debra Charles, of our police department, handled the case very well,” said Altic.
After an interview of the victim at the Children’s Center in Joplin it was determined there was enough evidence to arrest Shifflett.
“He knew we were looking for him and we finally found him in a tent in the woods and arrested him on March 22,” said Altic.
Shifflett was taken to the Newton County Jail where he remains on a $25,000 cash bond.
By Mattie Link