January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

Liquor sites charged with selling to minors

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission has charged two Illinois liquor store owners with selling alcohol to a minor over the Internet. Sam's Wine & Liquor in Chicago and Internet Wine and Spirits of Fairview Heights, Ill., were charged with misdemeanor counts of selling liquor to a minor, says Mark Smith, enforcement director for the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

Internet Wine and Spirits pleaded guilty to the charge, but Smith would not comment on the sentencing or fine. The maximum sentence is 60 days in jail, plus a $1,000 fine.

Officials with Internet Wine and Spirits were unavailable for comment. An employee at Sam's Wine & Liquor refused to comment.

The Michigan commission arranged for an 18-year-old to make the purchases from the stores' Web sites. The teen ordered a bottle of gin from the Chicago store and a bottle of wine from the Fairview Heights merchant. Both were delivered by United Parcel Service, and no one asked the teen for identification.

Smith says UPS has agreed to stop shipping alcohol in Michigan, but a representative from the company was not available to confirm that.

Two federal bills regarding alcohol sales over the Internet are pending. A Senate bill would allow states to take companies delivering alcohol to minors to federal court. A measure proposed in the House would mandate clear marking of packages containing alcohol and require a 21-year-old to sign for purchases.

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