Originally created 12/19/97

Police threaten to close former congressman's flea market after raid



ATLANTA -- Police are threatening to shut down a flea market owned by former Rep. Pat Swindall after officers arrested 28 people and seized 15.5 pounds of marijuana in a raid.

Swindall said he was "very shocked" to learn police want to take away his building near Underground Atlanta that houses the Great Five Points Flea Market.

"I've been very cooperative," he said. "Right now, I'm drawing up plans to completely renovate the property. We had a major meeting with Atlanta police, everyone from the top brass down to the zone level, and I was very cooperative."

Maj. W.B. Shannon, chief of police special operations, said the city will submit papers to the U.S. attorney's office next week for forfeiture of the building as a narcotics haven. The market was still open Thursday.

"It's not here for any other purpose than to facilitate this kind of enterprise," Shannon said. "The owner doesn't really seek to make this a commercial enterprise."

Shannon said there was no indication that Swindall had a role in drug sales. But he said Swindall was warned in January that police would try to seize the building if the activities continued.

"But as for active attempts to try to eliminate this problem, I don't see it," Shannon said. "The problem has actually increased."

Officers swept into the front entrances of the flea market on Wednesday while crowds gathered across the street to gawk. The street and basement levels of the building are a labyrinth of corridors leading past booths selling CDs, incense and other merchandise.

Plastic bags of marijuana were pulled from behind counters, from holes in walls and from duct work.

In addition to the marijuana, police said they seized five hits of crack cocaine, four cloned phones and $3,451 in suspected drug money.

Over the past 18 months, police had made more than 20 arrests and seized $60,000 worth of marijuana in the flea market, police spokeswoman Jan Northstar said.

Swindall, 46, represented Georgia's 4th District in Congress for two terms before being convicted of perjury in 1989. After exhausting his appeals, he served a year in a federal prison.

He began work as a talk show host on WNIV-AM in Atlanta in 1995.