Female cadet, 20, used in liquor store 'sting' Clerks at five stores fail to check her age

some owners complain

September 05, 1996|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

June 13 was an unlucky day for Howard County's liquor stores: In the span of three hours, a 20-year-old police cadet -- the first woman used on a liquor "sting" in recent memory -- bought alcohol at five stores without one clerk checking her identification.

"She was five for five. Great batting average," said F. Todd Taylor Jr., the county attorney who brought the cases to the liquor board Tuesday night.

The hearing was open, but the decisions will not be made public for a few weeks. Possible penalties include fines up to $1,000 and suspension or revocation of liquor licenses.

Police Cadet Tiffany Coleman, a student at Morgan State University, was six months shy of her 21st birthday when she crisscrossed the county from Cooksville to Jessup, buying bottles of Heineken, Budweiser and Mad Dog 20-20 from unsuspecting liquor stores.

The stores were Harpers Choice Wines & Spirits in Columbia, Friendship Liquors in West Friendship, Ridings Village Liquors in Columbia, the Cooksville Carryout and Jessup Discount Liquor.

"She did look 26 years old," said Josephine Fullerton, owner of the Cooksville Carryout on Frederick Road. "It's hard to tell how old a woman is."

Store owners said they have an easier time determining the age of their male customers, both because of their looks and their behavior. Women can use makeup, clothes and high-heel shoes to appear older, owners said.

"I don't think females should be used [in sting operations]," said Mark Ridings of Ridings Village Liquors in Wilde Lake Village Center. "A female can be made up to look older than she is, which you can't do with a male."

Columbia attorney Michael W. Davis, representing Jessup Discount Liquors on U.S. 1, said that using cadets who look older than 21 defeats the purpose of catching stores that are catering to under-age buyers.

"If they want to find out who's serving minors," Davis said, "send in someone who looks like a minor and acts like a minor."

But Taylor said not a single liquor store even bothered to ask the cadet her age.

Pub Date: 9/05/96

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