NEWS- Not too sharpie: FBI raids pirates of the Charlottesvillians
"It was pretty obvious someone went and burned those babies," says a neighbor, who asked not to be identified.
When the FBI raided the convenience market at 507 Stewart Street at the corner of Meade Avenue, bootleg CDs and DVDs were not all they found. The search warrant also lists two pages of counterfeit cigarette tax stamps, a Class 6 felony.
FBI agents pulled up in an unmarked Ford Explorer July 2, chained the doors, turned off the "open" sign and then started hauling out boxes of the alleged counterfeit goods, according to a neighbor who witnessed the raid. The FBI inventory lists over 1,900 DVDs and CDs, and names Bhagubhai Patel on the inventory.
Federal agents seized items at four stores Patel owns. The one location in the warrant– the Pic and Pac– led to the others, says FBI spokeswoman Dee Rybiski. At press time, no charges had been filed. "I would expect they would be at some point," says Rybiski.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Gould declined to comment on the case.
Trafficking in counterfeit goods is a felony that carries a maximum $2 million fine and 10-year sentence, depending on the value of the merchandise. Bootlegged cigarette tax stamps could bring both federal and state charges.
The pirated CDs and DVDs were pretty blatantly displayed at the Pic and Pac, according to neighbors. And the packaging was pretty unsophisticated: photocopied labels or CDs in generic boxes marked with a Sharpie.
Patel did not return phone calls from the Hook.
"The investigation was about copyright infringement," says Rybiski. "They took a multitude of pirated DVDs and CDs, but no drugs were found."
The Pic and Pac's clientele favors hip-hop, says a neighbor, and the store carries a lot of smoking paraphernalia. "This is probably going to stop a lot of bad things," he says.
Across the street is Virginia Arts recording studio. "It always blew my mind," says owner Chris Doermann. "They had photocopies of labels. It looks like a Hong Kong supermarket full of pirated disks."
He doesn't recall musicians recording at Virginia Arts running across their own music. Says Doermann, "The stuff was major labels."