FRAMINGHAM – An elected Framingham Planning Board member was caught in a tobacco sting selling cigarettes to a minor, at the job he has had for more three decades.
The Framingham Board of Health held a tobacco license hearing last night on the violation.
The minimum legal sales age in Framingham is 21.
At the moment, the minimum age in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is 18. The state just passed a law to increase it to 21 last month.
During a round of compliance inspections of all licensed tobacco vendors in Framingham in June, an employee at Auto Brite Car Wash on Hollis Street sold a $11.20 pack of Marlboro cigarettes to a minor on June 23 at 10:52 a.m. and never asked the purchaser’s age or asked for identification. That employee was Victor Ortiz, who also happens to be an elected Planning Board member in the City of Framingham.
“We take this very seriously,” said Patrick Mossesso, owner of the establishment. “Victor Otiz is one of our most seasoned employees who runs the store. I don’t know what happened with Victor that day. It is a very rare occurrence. We take it very seriously. We have a great reputation for so long. This is tough for us to take as a company.”
“I don’t know what to say. I got caught off guard,” said Ortiz, who has worked 31 years at Auto Brite.
“Nobody is tougher than me on ID. And I mean no body. I ID every body,” said Ortiz to the Framingham Board of Health last night, August 13.
Ortiz said he was very active in the community.
“I’m an elected member of the Planning Board,” said Ortiz to the Board of Health. His term ends in 2019.
“I’m not putting up excuses. There is no reason for it, but I got caught off guard,” said Ortiz. “There is no body in this town tougher than me when it comes to ID.”
“I am very well aware of the regulations,” said Ortiz, who has lived in Framingham for 46 years.
The Framingham Board of Health recently updated its regulations. As of July 1, an establishment is fined $300 for a first offense on tobacco, and no longer $100.
However as the violation happened in June, the Board agreed to levy a $100 not a $300 fine.
The City’s regulation also calls for a 3-day consecutive suspension of the tobacco license.
Mossesso said 3 days would be painful for his business.
“I hear you, but not crying for you,” said Board of Health member Mike Hugo.
This was the first offense for Auto Brite Car Wash.
The Board voted 4-0 to levy a $100 fine and a suspension of the license on August 20-21-22.
Auto Brite was one of three businesses that was caught selling tobacco to a minor as part of a sting in June 2018.
Failure to appear at last night’s hearing, could have resulted in additional penalties or fines.