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Pizzeria and ice cream shop front for drug operation

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By Brett Gillin

If you’re ordering a pizza in St. Paul Minnesota, you might want to avoid calling Papa Dimitri’s Classic Pizza and Ice Cream. That is, unless you’d like a heaping load of marijuana alongside the pepperoni on your pie. Police say that four people associated with the pizzeria were running a drug-dealing business from the shop and concealing their proceeds by laundering the money through the business. The owner, his mother, grandmother, and the woman he lives with, have now all been charged with multiple felonies.

According to this report in the Star Tribune, Ryan D. Brooks, Sr. took control of Papa Dimitri’s Classic Pizza and Ice Cream back in 2010. But it certainly didn’t seem like Brooks was looking to compete with the local pizza shops as much as the local drug dealers. The operation, which seemed to start up shortly after Brooks took over, operated for years before it began to fall apart.

In August of last year, a concerned citizen went to the St. Paul Police department to lodge a complaint of suspicious activity. The citizen told police that something was amiss, as the restaurant was, according to this report from Twincities.com, “rarely open and does not seem to do much actual business.”

To make matters even more suspicious, the complainant also noted that the employees complained that the heat was not working in the restaurant. Just about anyone who’s worked around pizza ovens can tell you that they generate more than enough heat to keep employees warm, so long as they’re operational. The tipster also told police that the employees almost always ate at a nearby restaurant, rather than the pizza place, something that seems a bit unusual.

Police took notice and began surveying the business. They quickly realized that the shop didn’t open until the late afternoon. What’s more, in the course of the six days that police observed the restaurant, they only counted five customers and four deliveries. When police began digging further into the pizza and ice cream shop, they also uncovered suspicious packages had been flagged by the local postal inspector. Those packages, it would soon be revealed, contained dozens of pounds of marijuana. Some of them were addressed directly to the restaurant, and others to the 82-year-old grandmother of Ryan Brooks.

Police obtained and executed a search warrant at the restaurant and the grandmother’s house. There, they found an unopened package containing dozens of pounds of marijuana which the grandmother claimed to know nothing about. She told police that she’d received three or four similar packages addressed from her son, but never opened them. Police believe that Brooks took these packages, then used the pizza boxes and bags to deliver this marijuana under the cover of making pizza deliveries.

The search warrants were soon expanded to Brook’s house and his mother’s house, where they found more marijuana, multiple loaded handguns, hollow point bullets, and cocaine. The family has been charged with multiple counts of conspiracy to sell marijuana, cocaine possession, engaging in the business of concealing criminal proceeds, and illegal possession of a handgun by a felon.

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