Business owner arrested on counterfeit charges

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First at Five, February 4, 2008

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga.---Local business owner Chris Bettis is behind bars, accused of selling fake designer merchandise out of his cell phone stores.

Investigators raided four of his stores, as well as his house. They say they found more than 300 items: purses, wallets, sunglasses, and jewelry.

Deputies say if the items were real designer merchandise, they would be valued at about $100,000.

"We anxiously await an interview with him and hopefully he'll fill in the pieces that are missing," said Captain Morris.

One of those pieces is where the items originally came from.

Captain Morris says he's glad to shut down this local ring but wants to catch whoever's making the items.

"This is ridiculous. It's just another way for people to make money and sell stuff. I think it's ridiculous. It's just a purse and glasses. To me, i don't really care. It really doesn't bother me," said Latief Daniels, who works near one of Bettis' stores.

But Captain Morris says maybe it should.

"One thing that very few people think about are sales tax issues. When these things are sold, there's no sales tax being paid," Capt. Morris said.

And the money that is being paid for fakes affects what you pay for the real thing.

Some companies hire people to decide if items are counterfeit. Louis Vuitton sent someone to work with deputies on this case.

Because the companies pay people to fight fraud, you end up paying the price in stores.

"It's not fair to say this is a victimless crime," Capt. Morris said.

One big victim is the companies that copyright their work, making it illegal for anyone to steal their designs.

And even if you think they should be able to afford it since they're big companies, it's against the law.

"Bottom line is, plain and simple, it's a crime. And we're paid to fight crime," Capt. Morris.

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