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Movie/music ‘pirates’ arrested

AHOSKIE – Two Ahoskie men are behind bars after local law enforcement officers raided what was described as “an elaborate counterfeit music/movie set-up” here late Tuesday afternoon.

Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh reported the arrests of Jason Jerome Barnes, 30 of NC 461, and 28-year-old Rahjon Green of the Ahoskie-Cofield Road.

Initially, both men were charged with felonious possession of pirated video recordings (DVDs) and misdemeanor possession of pirated audio recordings (CDs). Both men were taken to the Hertford County Jail in Winton, each under a $30,000 bond.

On Wednesday, an additional charge of felonious possession of equipment to manufacture pirated CDs and DVDs was lodged against both men. Warrants on that charge were forwarded to the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office to serve on Barnes and Green, both still behind bars.

“We had been receiving complaints from local businesses who legitimately deal in the sale and rental of movies and music that there were people within the local community selling pirated movies and music CDs,” Chief Fitzhugh said.

Fitzhugh said the pirated audio and video recordings were hurting the sales/rentals of the legitimate businesses.

“Armed with the provided information, we investigated the allegations and, as a result, made these two arrests on Tuesday,” Fitzhugh said.

One key in the investigation was the recent training provided by the North Carolina State Attorney General’s office involving Ahoskie Police Lt. Jeremy Roberts. On Oct. 2, Lt. Roberts received state certification as a member of the North Carolina Anti-Counterfeit Trademark Task Force.

“The training that Lt. Roberts received came in very handy in this particular case,” Chief Fitzhugh said. “He is qualified and certified by the state to investigate those involved in manufacturing and selling of counterfeit merchandise.”

Led by Lt. Roberts, a search warrant was obtained Tuesday for 112 Pinegate Apartments in Ahoskie. There, 668 pirated DVDs and 43 pirated CDs were discovered. At an estimated street value of $3 each, that’s $2,133 worth of illegal merchandise.

Also seized in the search were a lap top computer, a desk top computer, a three-disc CD/DVD burner, a nine-disc CD/DVD burner, a printer, pirated movie/music labels and blank CDs and DVDs. The value of those items was estimated at $5,000.

Chief Fitzhugh added that an undisclosed amount of U.S. currency was also seized from the residence.

“It was an elaborate set-up,” Fitzhugh said, adding that the original labels were copied and glued to the pirated merchandise. “The set-up was very professional. The CDs and DVDs looked like the real thing.”

Also involved in the search and arrest were Chief Fitzhugh, Major Jimmy Asbell and Detective Sgt. Stephen White of the Ahoskie Police Department along with Capt. Raymond Eure, Detective Dexter Hayes and Detective Brian Pierce of the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office.

“We thank the Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in making these arrests and taking this illegal merchandise off the street,” Fitzhugh said. “We will continue to actively seek and arrest those involved in the illegal recording and sale of CDs and DVDs. The legitimate business owners who make their living from the sale and rental of such items are the victims. They operate a lawful, licensed business and we want to ensure they remain in business by locking up those involved in pirating practices.”