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Former Selectman Accused of Selling Alcohol to Minor

Country Liquors receives a five-day liquor license suspension for the alleged incident.

Former Seekonk Selectman John Whelan, whose legal and personal issues have been publicized in the media, faces a new problem with an allegation that he sold alcohol to a minor.

The allegation was made public at this week's Board of Selectmen meeting during a liquor license violation hearing for , where Whelan works.

Police Chief Ronald Charron told the board that a 15-year-old female from Barrington, referred to as "JF," purchased alcohol in February at Country Liquors while Whelan was working the register. The allegation eventually came to the attention of the .

JF told Seekonk Detective Charles Mello that she never presented or was asked for an ID, Charron said. He said she also told the detective she purchased alcohol from the store while Whelan was working there four or five other times.

"Detective Mello noted that JF looks 15 and acted like a 15-year-old girl, and it was hard for Detective Mello to believe she would be mistaken for a 21-year-old female," Charron said.

The next month, JF took part in a sting operation in which she purchased a 12-pack of Budweiser from Country Liquors while Whelan was on duty, Charron said. The police chief said after the transaction was completed, detectives walked into the store and informed Whelan that he would be charged with selling alcohol to a person under 21. The former selectman is expected to appear in court next month.

If it were determined Whelan knowingly sold alcohol to a minor, he could face a fine of up to $2,000 and be sentenced to up to one year in custody. However, a legal expert told Attleboro-Seekonk Patch that it is unlikely a person would receive the maximum penalty in this situation. 

When asked about the allegation, Whelan told Attleboro-Seekonk Patch, "Without speaking to ownership, I have to say no comment."

The nine-year selectman, who chose not to run this year for re-election, appeared in court in February following his arrest for allegedly shoving his wife with whom he is going through a divorce. He pleaded innocent to a charge of assault and battery domestic.

Whelan has not publicly addressed the alleged incident. He said at his final selectmen meeting last week, "There have been a lot of lies said about me lately and I will be vindicated."

At this week’s hearing, the selectmen voted 4-1 to suspend Country Liquors' license for five days starting on Monday. Also, employees must take training in how to avoid selling alcohol to minors. The police chief and town attorney Jeffrey Blake recommended the five-day suspension. The decision can be appealed to the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Commission.

Store owner George Collias told the board that the incident did happen and that Whelan received a "severe reprimand," but was not fired. He called Whelan a "strong employee."

The dissenting vote for the five-day suspension came from Selectman Francis Cavaco, who noted that Sam's Food Store was given a 60-day suspension in 2007 for two violations of selling alcohol to a minor. He said the selectmen should be consistent.

"What we're looking at here is a 15-year-old child … the only thing the business is interested in … is the dollar," Cavaco said.

He continued, "If this board accepts a five-day suspension, we are sending the wrong message to this community."

Selectman Bob McLintock said he agreed with Cavaco about the seriousness of the situation, but he said a lengthy suspension would be more severe for Country Liquors than it was for Sam’s. Unlike Sam's, nearly all Country Liquors' sales are for alcohol.

"I, like other people, don't want to put [Collias] out of business," McLintock said. "He made a mistake. Hopefully, he'll learn from that mistake."

He later turned to Collias, and said, "If you ever come back here for anything while I'm sitting here, you're in deep trouble. Believe me when I tell you that."

Carol Bragg April 07, 2012 at 08:38 PM
I'd go with the 5-day suspension that the police chief recommended. There are going to be an awful lot of 15-year old kids drinking alcohol this weekend for Passover and Easter, served by their parents. Not selling liquor to minors, as noble as that may be, is not going to solve the problem of kids drinking and driving. The kids will find it. And what is the ethics of sending a 15-year old into a liquor store to try to buy liquor anyway? If it's wrong to sell liquor to a minor, it's also wrong to send a minor to try to buy liquor. Why are we using children this way? In this case, both the police and John were wrong.
Emcee of Seekonk April 07, 2012 at 09:02 PM
These 'sting' operations are common. Without them it would be a free for all out there. There are no police personel who are underage, so who could they use? At least with the massage/prostitute parlors, they can use one of their own. Of course underage kids are going to find alcohol...they're going to send some 15-year old out to buy it for them. Then there's an accident, or a kid dead from alcohol overdose. Whatever it takes for the police to slow this down, I'm all for it.
Carol Bragg April 07, 2012 at 09:54 PM
There's no need to send a 15-year-old. The police can use some who's 20. The point is the liquor store is supposed to be asking for ID and should ask for ID from everyone, no matter the age. Adults who appreciate the need to refuse to sell liquor to minors will not object to pulling out their driver's license. Banks require ID, hospitals ask for photo ID. What's the big deal? A good liquor store should ask ID. And customers can urge them to ask ID of everyone. A 15-year-old IS a child. If the police don't want parents to send a 15-year-old to try to get liquor, then they shouldn't either. They can accomplish the same thing with someone who's a month short of 21.
deb of see-attleboro April 08, 2012 at 12:22 AM
According to the article, the 15 year old LOOKED 15 years old. I did not hear the store owner deny the allegations. He stood before the board and seemed completely oblivious to the seriousness of selling this potentially lethal toxin to a 15 year old . Officer Mello said the girl LOOKED 15. The transaction was allegedly consummated by our former selectman WHILE HE WAS STILL SERVING as selectman. Again. The child looked 15. And supposedly he still works there. Let's hope it is all a big misunderstanding.
Nelson Almeida April 08, 2012 at 01:40 AM
In January a under age party was broken up in barrington by police and one of the 15 year olds stated she gets the liquor all the time by whelan at the country liquor store. The police with the permission of the 15 year olds parents had the 15 year old prove to them during the sting they performed. I asked the owner if John was still employeed. He said yes. Not for nothing but 4 months later and the owner had no training
Nelson Almeida April 08, 2012 at 01:40 AM
for any of his employees
deb of see-attleboro April 08, 2012 at 01:54 AM
I question whether this is an issue of "training". Just sayin...
Dave April 08, 2012 at 05:57 AM
Not having read the actual report the knowledge that we have is limited to what has been spoken about. But here's another point, if in fact this female has been in there before and was carded, how many times do you keep carding the same someone? Again, I dont know how it all happened other than what has been said by others but if you card an individual how many times do you keep carding a person? And I think another poster mentioned this but could this female have been using this sting as way to reduce her own penalty? After admitting she had used this site before.. And that brings the question was this person ID'd on previous visits using a false ID and basically set up this entire thing? And she knew it?
paul April 08, 2012 at 12:24 PM
John missed many meetings because he had to work. If his job is so important, why would he risk it to serve a child? Something has been off with him for quite some time and I recall thinking the same thing when I was watching him on tv and he was making a big deal about calling a firefighter, "lieutenant" because that is his rank. Medication?
Carol Bragg April 08, 2012 at 01:31 PM
The police ought to be using 20-year-olds if they want to check whether liquor stores are selling to minors, not 15-year-olds. The adult public (i.e., customers) should insist that all purchasers of liquor be carded and boycott liquor stores that don't card them. This would be a far more effective method of stopping sale of liquor to minors than police using 15-year-olds to conduct sting operations. Those who are concerned about selling liquor to minors can start this movement the next time they're in a liquor store, telling the employees that they do not intend to patronize the store if it doesn't care everyone. Meanwhile, it would be great advertising for some liquor store in the community to announce this policy, phrasing it as their contribution to reducing alcohol abuse by young people. If the problem is underage drinking, the solution is in our hands -- that is, if we really care.
Emcee of Seekonk April 08, 2012 at 01:53 PM
"Medication?" It's been a long time and it has been noticeable. The excessive jitteryness, etc.
Emcee of Seekonk April 08, 2012 at 01:57 PM
If the proprietor continues to employ John, if there is another incident (and I sincerely hope there isn't), it will be shame on him and he should lose his license.
paul April 08, 2012 at 02:44 PM
When you go to the Dunk or Gillette they ask for I.D. even if your hair is white.
deb of see-attleboro April 09, 2012 at 01:19 AM
SelectMEN who work at liquor stores should not sell alcohol to 15 year old GIRLS!!! Just sayin...
Dave April 09, 2012 at 05:01 AM
I dont think anyone knowingly would sell liquor to minors regardless. Again making judgements about circumstances without having first hand knowledge is faulty. We can sit back and type what ever we feel like without ever having to worry whether or not the data that we based it on was correct. I go back to what I posted before, if the person had been in the store other times and was carded (assumption) why would you continue to do it? You have already verified the supposed ID of this person on previous visits. How many people would get angry or otherwise disgruntled and just not go back there? They are there to make money. Thats no excuse but for the owner etc. its not good business to tick off your customers if you can avoid it. If the person had a fake ID how good was it and how can a person tell? The guides that are out there only go so far. With todays technology it seems like its very easy to copy something accurately if you wish.
deb of see-attleboro April 09, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Dave: I will make an assumption. You did not watch the hearing? I think if you had, your questions would have been answered and you might not be as unbiased. You might also agree that the board was too lenient given the circumstances. Also, I think it is pretty naive to believe that people won't knowingly sell liquor to minors. On the down low, stores have been known to market themselves to minors. Usually in cities. But I suppose it can happen anywhere. There is no reason to suspect that this is the case here. This appears to be simply a case of poor judgement on the part of one employee.
paul April 09, 2012 at 01:00 PM
He may have been trying to hook up with the girl.
Carol Bragg April 09, 2012 at 05:32 PM
This is how rumors get started. It's best to hold your thoughts, lest folks conclude that you're the type of man who would want to do this.
paul April 09, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Everyone was thinking the same thing, including the cops.
deb of see-attleboro April 09, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Rumors also get started because "justice delayed is justice denied". Maybe this is one of the alleged lies being spread to which he insists he will be vindicated. But if the allegations are proven to be fact during the court proceedings, it will be near impossible to prove an intent in selling to a young girl and the rumors will persist. Especially if he did so more than once. Speaking of justice delayed, justice denied, is it just a coincidence that this hearing was not held until after the election? Does it always take this long to for the BOS to schedule a hearing on such a violation. I don't even recall seeing a media report. Just some random thoughts...
Jonathan Friedman (Editor) April 09, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Paul, where did you get that "everyone was thinking the same thing, including the cops?" I didn't hear that anywhere. If you have some actual sourced information, please post it here or email it to jonathan.friedman@patch.com. That is a very serious charge you made and you should have something to back it up before making it. Please, everybody, keep in mind that there has only been a Board of Selectmen hearing on this matter, and that hearing was not directly about Mr. Whelan, but rather about the business. Mr. Whelan has not had his day in court.
Ernie M April 10, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Having grandchildren its disturbing the owner had a I Don't Give a Crap attitude and when answering questions would have a blank look on his face. Cameras dont lie. Any other business would have fired the employee. Wonder why he's still there. Just like that lady stated it's the responsiblity of the owner not a 15 year old girl and there was no reason there should not have been training. Where does this man get off blaming the girl. Thats a business owner that should not be in business.
deb of see-attleboro April 10, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Well, Ernie. Only one selectman seems to agree with us that this business owner got a slap on the wrist. Bill Gouveia's column in yesterday's Sun Chronicle "Liquor license rules a befuddling business" is a gift. One would hope the owner is waiting for the defendant to have his day in court before deciding his fate. I hope that's all it is.
Neil K. LeBeau April 27, 2012 at 08:50 AM
you must be either A.) a big time liberal B.) a Whelan supporter or C.) Both. No matter, shame on you. People like you turn things around on the victims. They use 15 year olds just to show how pathetic the seller really is.
Neil K. LeBeau April 27, 2012 at 08:53 AM
why would other liquor stores have to card people in their 50's because John serves 15 year old girls....several times? You don't make sense.
Neil K. LeBeau April 27, 2012 at 08:55 AM
wife beaters on drugs will do crazy things
Neil K. LeBeau April 27, 2012 at 08:59 AM
Gillette also gets to charge $60 to park and over $100 per ticket. The LQ can't. No reason to card someone in their 50's just because John is so out of his mind he serves 15 year old girls.
Neil K. LeBeau April 27, 2012 at 09:02 AM
Taking a shot at Catholics, suggesting parents will give their kids alcohol and use it as a defense to try and suggest the cops were somehow in the wrong because John got caught serving a little girl.
Neil K. LeBeau April 27, 2012 at 09:04 AM
Yea if John got fired the 5 days would have been fine...but he didn't. Now the same guy who served a 15 year old little girl several times is still selling. This guy is wacked out of his mind right now.
paul April 27, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Jonathan, with a capital J, it's called motive. Why would a man risk his job? I made no charge, only said what people are thinking, and like you I'm not revealing sources. If he was, it could never be proven.

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