Businesses caught in ATD sting appear in court

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News 12 at 6, November 7, 2007

COLUMBIA COUNTY, GA -- Several businesses, recently busted for selling alcohol to minors, had their day in court on Wednesday.

In a News 12 exclusive, 12 On Your Side tells you what happened when these companies appeared before the judge.

You first read the story last week when seven businesses out of 21 were busted for selling booze to underage law enforcement agents in a recent sting. Wednesday was the day for many of them to fess up or fight the charges.

Keeping alcohol out of the hands of minors is a major priority for alcohol and tobacco agents of the Georgia Department of Revenue. They test businesses by sending in undercover and underage agents who try and buy beer.

Sometimes, businesses ask the right questions.

"Can I see some ID?" asked one clerk.

Sometimes they don't.

"You sold alcohol to person under the age of 21," Special Agent Jason Dykes told one clerk while writing a citation.

“You can enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest," Judge Leisa Phillips said of the Georgia Department of Revenue to one business owner.

When they do sell, they get to meet Judge Phillips who decides their fate.

12 On Your Side went on a recent sting with the ATD when seven businesses were busted.

On Wednesday, we were there when four of them had their day in court.

Some decided not to fight it.

"We want to enter a plea of no contest," responded one lawyer to Judge Phillips.

And some don't.

He's going to enter a plea of not guilty," said Rajal Patel, daughter of 1st Stop Convenience Store Owner Jayesh Patel.

12 On Your Side caught Jayesh Patel selling alcohol to an underage agent on a hidden camera recently.

In court, he says it didn't happen, but the underage agent says it did.

"I purchased a 40 ounce Budweiser at $2.65," the agent said.

And that's all the judge needs.

"I'm going to find you guilty of the violation," Judge Phillips said to Mr. Patel.

Meaning, Mr. Patel will probably pay a $500 fine and have his liquor license put on probation for a year.

The five other businesses that were cited the night we tagged along, pleaded guilty or no contest. Both bring the same punishment:

*Summerville Ace
*Walton Way Wine & Spirits
*K's Mart
*One Stop Convenience Store
*Somewhere in Augusta

Either way, Judge Phillips hopes this is the last time she sees these businesses in her courtroom. "It's very important to the department that we know they are making efforts to make sure it won't happen again," she said.

The last business, Teresa's Restaurant on Walton Way was a no show Wednesday, meaning it will likely face a stiffer penalty.

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