Black market merchandise in Augusta

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First at Five, February 1, 2008

COLUMBIA CTY, Ga.---A local business owner faces charges of counterfeit trademark violation, leaving four of his businesses closed for now.

Deputies say they took evidence from them as well as the owner's house.

"I would think this is in like Atlanta you know, in a bigger city or something like that. Not Augusta," Janice Coppin said. She works near a T-Mobile where she says you could find fake merchandise.

"They were selling imitation purses of Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Dooney and Burke," she said.

Deputies raided the store today, bringing out box after box of seized merchandise.

They also took evidence from two other T-Mobiles and a Sprint store. They're all on Washington Road in Columbia County.

They say they're all owned by the same man, 28-year-old Chris Bettis. They took evidence from his house too, as well as some of his vehicles.

Deputies say he faces charges of counterfeit trademark violation.

"It was just a matter of time and today was the day," said Latief Daniels, who works near one of the t-mobiles.

He says he knew about the illegal business and figured the police would catch on.

"Especially since it's big. Once it gets from one store to this store, somebody's gonna say, well I saw the bags. Somebody's gonna tell the police," he said.

Deputies say they've been working on the case for weeks. A secret service member even came in to help.

Deputies arrested two employees.

One of them, Tabitha Crum, was arrested on an unrelated charge, but deputies say she could also face trademark violation charges.

Janice says people used to go to her store and ask where to get purses especially at Christmas time.

"Every other day, and come people would call and wanna get their number or they [would ask if they were] open," she said.

Now, Janice says people may just have to buy the real thing.

"I don't think it's right for them to be false advertising purses...that's not right," she said.

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