Ever seen a business that was probably a front for illegal activity?

Today I ran across a gas station that had cheaper gas than usual, but the place was oddly deserted. The pump said “Pay Inside”, but there was nobody behind the counter except this big, muscular guy who didn’t look at me and didn’t even look like he worked there. At that point I thought, “Screw it, I’m going to Mobil.”

At first I wondered how a place like that could even stay in business, until I thought…maybe that’s the point. Maybe it’s really a chop shop or something.

Ever run across a business like that?

Actually, I just found out my favorite Peruvian chicken place was raided recently by the FBI for being a front for a money laundering operation (or so I’ve been told). The chicken was outstanding, and the prices reasonable. It was very popular. I’m not sure if they have remained in business after the raid. I never would have guessed that it was a front.

I’m in a rough neighborhood and there is a “pizza” store with windows bricked up and bars on the doors, no info except the name, no logo or visible phone number or hours. And yet a steady stream of seedy “customers” going in and out.
I asked a neighbor what it was about and he said a gang’s fencing headquarters, that the cops know but can’t close it (or perhaps want it open to help them locate felons to tail)

A thread on this topic already exists.

It hasn’t been touched in almost two months, though.

There’s a DVD store in San Gabriel that I know, factually, is at least a distributor for some industrial-strength piracy organization. I remember seeing March of the Penguins in there… three weeks before the official DVD release… with copyright/credits information from the 1940 “Billy The Kid” movie on the back.

I keep waffling between wanting to report it and knowing that it won’t do any good; it was shut down a few times before, but it always opens again, two or three months later, like nothing had happened. It feels like someone’s making problems disappear.

I have a similar story. When I was living in Liverpool, there was a pizza place two doors down from the shop where I worked. Bars at the windows, no logo, stream of odd looking customers. When they opened I wanted to get a pizza to give it a try, and they seemed really surprised I asked. They said they had nothing ready at the time. It was 12.30 pm.

Another older story: about halfway between my house in Italy and the house of my best mate there was what we called The Suspicious Bar. Open until very late at night, not many customers sitting at the counter despite many cars parked in front of the bar, and the only time I went in there was a steady stream of dodgy looking customers being sent to the “private room”. But they had great pastries!

Leechbabe told me once of a very dodgy bowling center on the Gold Coast that turned out to be a front for a brothel.

There is a small mini-mart near where I used to work that is sparsely shelved, I have never seen any customers in there, and when I went in to buy something once, it had weird brands of almost nothing. Yet it seems to “employ” at least three staff.

I have no idea what it may (or may not) be a front for, but it sure can’t be making any money as a supermarket.

I’m told that a lot of those FX Bureaux in London are used for money-laundering. They’ll still change your legit money, though - for a price.

Yes. Years ago, I worked for a human services agency that got their daily newspapers at a small newstand/candy store a few blocks away. Once I was asked to pick them up.

The store was a small hole in the wall, maybe about 20 feet deep and eight feet wide, with about 25-30 magazines on the wall, a few daily papers, and a small rack of candy. The whole place was dark and dingy. There was absolutely no way they were making more than $10 a day net with that pathetic amount of stock. Most likely, they were making book in the back (bookmaking was big in Schenectady for years until OTB came along, and didn’t die out then, either).

There used to be a very good Chinese restaurant about 3 blocks down from our old office that was a front for a numbers business. They’d probably still be there had the owner not died and the building condemned.

Dozens. The closest is just around the corner from me. It’s a hair salon run by some Russian babushkas. No foot traffic there, they’re not good (I’ve tried them twice, trying to support local business), and they are never busy even though there are at least 4-5 workers there whenever I’ve passed. If it isn’t a front, then someone’s sugar daddy is footing the bill just to keep the wife ‘busy’ (which means spending all the open hours gossiping with the other Russian ladies who work there and flit in and out).

Oh yeah! The jewelry store that stole my emeralds and put in a cloudy chipped one, it did go out fo business linked to tax evasion and other problems. The hoagie shop where the middle aged guys stuffed their faces all day and couldnt make a good hoagie if their life depended on it. The greasy diner with beauty salon attached. Same Greek family, the diner is open 4 hours a day and the salon is appt only. Good burgers though I suspect there is more to that picture than meets the eye.
The Chinese place where there are never ever any cars, it’s all delivery? Ate there once, it was bad. Still open after all these years. Just down the road from another Chinese rest, where they did get busted by INS.

Yes this is the land of illegal opportunity.

That’s like, half of the corner delis in Brooklyn. I stop to buy beer sometimes, and it seems that there are always about four guys in any given one–two behind the counter (one at the register, one ostensibly working the “deli,” though I’ve NEVER seen anyone buy a sandwich or meat or cheese), one hanging out saying inappropriate things to female customers, and one scratching off lottery ticket after lottery ticket.

I’m convinced that there’s illegal stuff going down all over the place. I’m not sure what it is, maybe drugs? Otherwise, are they making all their profit off the lotto ticket guy and the occasional beer sale? I can’t imagine that…not in a place like New York, with the costs of running a business, right?

Another hair salon - by my bar. Never seen so many forty second haircuts in my life.

Boy, that brings back memories of my youth when for a while I lived in Brooklyn. There were a lot of this type of “candy store” on the corners. We kids, when we could rustle up a nickel, went in to peruse the dusty merchandise and buy something. The back of the stores always had curtains over a doorway, and there was quite a bit of adult traffic going in and out. We all knew they were running numbers, card games and taking bets on the ponies. Free enterprise. :smiley:

There was a hole-in-the-wall carry-out pizza place I tried once in Ormond Beach when I lived there that was always, always dead. The pizza was awful. Chef Boyardee sauce on a premade crust.
I mentioned it once to a local girl I was dating who ran with some questionable locals when she was younger. She said matter of factly “that’s because they’re not really there to make pizza”. She knew the owners and knew they dealt drugs out of the place.

When I lived in Dallas there was this “massage parlor/café” kind of thing very close to my apartment. Never once did they have a grand opening, advertise, put out any signs, flyers, coupons, etc. Their parking lot was completely empty all day until about 9 pm and filled up to the point of overflowing into neighboring parking lots around 2 am. The front of their store was solid glass windows looking over a single desk that never had a person sitting at it, and then a door in a wall about 10 feet back from the front windows. I was always sure it was a front for the mob but I guess I won’t know for sure until they eventually get busted for something.

I’m glad this topic is back. I read the previous thread before I set up my account.
We have a chain of at least five stores here that I can’t figure out, but it’s probably more a matter of taste than anything illegal going on.
They look like a bar, but I don’t think that any of them have taps or liquor. Often, they’re right next to a real bar. As far as I can tell, their main source of income is video poker machines. (They’re owned by the state, and most bars have a couple.) The last time I went into one of these pseudo-bars out of curiosity, it had only about six poker machines, and a small cooler with canned beer and pre-made sandwiches.
I can understand the potential of a place that has a bar atmosphere but allows minors, but minors aren’t allowed in places with poker machines, so I don’t get it–why not go to a real bar?

In my old neighborhood in Brooklyn there was an Italian restaurant that I always suspected of not quite being on the up and up. I think it was a legitimate business, because the food was fantastic and they were always busy, but I think it was also a front for some serious shady dealings. It was the hangout for all the well-dressed Italian guys in the neighborhood, just like out of Goodfellas. I could get an entire dinner there for $7.00 (e.g., chicken parm with pasta, salad, and bread), and that price never changed in the 5 years I lived there (mid 90’s). There was enough food for at least 2 dinners and sometimes also a lunch the next day. Always $7.00 even, no tax, no change. No matter what I ordered- veal dish? $7.00. Pasta? $7.00. Chicken? $7.00. Fish? $7.00.

Damn, that food was good.