ATC seizes counterfeit goods in multi-parish operation; search warrant executed on VP business

BATON ROUGE – Agents of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) seized tens of thousands of dollars worth of counterfeit brand-name goods and pirated DVDs in a major multi-parish investigation.

ATC agents observed the suspect products during routine alcohol and tobacco permit inspections. Working with the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office and local law enforcement officials in Evangeline, Lafayette, and Rapides parishes, agents with ATC’s Investigative Services Unit conducted raids Friday, December 12, 2008, at the following businesses:

•Magic Mart - 2301 Broadway Ave., Alexandria.

•Joe’s Corner (formerly known as Four Corners) - 902 Lincoln Road, Ville Platte.

•USA Express Inc. - 317 Pinhook Road, Lafayette.

The counterfeit products seized at all three locations included $30-thousand worth of fake Nike-branded shoes and pirated DVDs of movies that are still in theaters. In addition, the businesses were failing to collect sales taxes on the sales of the targeted items.

“Commercial fraud is always disturbing, but it is especially problematic during the Christmas Holidays when people are spending their hard-earned money on products that turn out to be phony” said ATC Commissioner Murphy Painter. “Alcohol and Tobacco Control is partnering with state and local law enforcement throughout Louisiana to fight commercial fraud, and we will hold accountable any business that uses alcohol or tobacco permits to engage in illegal activity.”

(Editor’s Note: Captain Ernest Green, formerly with the Ville Platte Police Department, led the team of ATC members here Friday. He said search warrants were being executed at multiple locations around the state as he spoke.

The investigation has been ongoing for approximately five months, according to Green. He said charges could be filed both civilly and criminally in this case in regards to improper sales tax transactions, counterfeit products and alcohol and cigarette distribution as agents continue to investigate several businesses in the area.

Joe’s Corner was closed to the public while the search warrant was executed.

Locally, ATC members were joined by Ville Platte Police Chief Neal Lartigue and detectives Lt. John B. “Chip” Matte, Lt. Craig Matte, Sgt. Linton Fontenot, Sgt. Joseph “Plywood” Fontenot and Detective Ervin “Chip” Pitre.

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