Police believe the co-owner of a convenience store and deli located in the Transit Mall in downtown Charleston paid people to steal thousands of dollars worth of clothing and electronics from the Charleston Town Center Mall and other stores.
Detectives on Thursday raided Middle East Mart and Deli, located at 180 Laidley St., and allegedly found two sets of expensive headphones, allegedly stolen from the FYE store inside the mall.
Khitam Ghoul, was charged with two counts of receiving stolen property, a misdemeanor.
Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster said Ghoul is the center of an eight-month investigation into stolen items worth thousands of dollars. Ghoul could soon face felony charges, he said.
Ghoul, from inside her store, would show certain people items that she wanted for herself, like expensive purses, Webster said, and would pay them if they brought them to her. Those people, who knew Ghoul as “Kate,” would often shoplift the items from inside the Charleston Mall, he said.
Detectives recorded Ghoul discussing items that she wanted with several confidential informants earlier this month, Webster said.
“She would say, ‘here is what I want now go and shoplift it and I will pay you,’” Webster said. “And she was really paying pennies on the dollar, too. It wasn’t much. For a $200 item she would pay someone $20.”
Besides the headphones found Thursday, police allegedly found a large amount of cash and a small amount of marijuana. Ghoul owns the store with her husband, Amjad. The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department closed the business Friday morning, citing a leaky roof in its kitchen. Webster said he wants the store closed for good and would pursue avenues to do so.
Detectives served a search warrant at the Ghoul’s residence Thursday, allegedly recovering dozens of bags of clothing with price tags still attached. They also allegedly found 30 to 40 bottles of perfume, sunglasses and dozens of CDs and DVDs. The recovered items totaled approximately $100,000, Webster said.
Ghoul wasn’t reselling the items, Webster said, but would give them to her daughters or other family members.
Ghoul’s daughter, Marah, said Friday that her mother is innocent of all accusations against her. She said police have unfairly depicted her mother as a criminal kingpin and embarrassed her family. Her family has never been in legal trouble and has co-owned the business for more than 13 years, she said.
“They ruined our family putting that stuff on the news,” Marah Ghoul said. “The embarrassment is alright but its the fact that it’s lies and everyone is going to believe it.”
Marah Ghoul said her mother had bought items from people to sell inside her store in the past, taking pity on some people who needed quick cash. She stopped doing that about six months ago, Marah Ghoul said. The headphones that police found Thursday were bought legitimately by her father to sell, she said. Her father had nothing to do with the small amount of marijuana found inside the store either.
As far as the items police seized from their home, Marah Ghoul said they were all bought legally and her family has proof.
“They took all of my sister’s jeans, which she has bought from Buckle,” she said. “She has the receipts from those jeans and the tags from the jeans so when the police go into Buckle, Buckle will prove them wrong.”
Khitam Ghoul has a hearing on the misdemeanor charges April 30 in Charleston Municipal Court.
Reach Travis Crum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5163.