Several businesses busted for illegal activity remain opened, DA - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Several businesses busted for illegal activity remain opened, DA's office explains

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

More and more businesses around Columbus continue to get busted for illegal gambling and drugs.

Many are asking why the doors to these businesses are still opened.

"Part of the problem is, we don't prosecute businesses; we prosecute people," Assistant District Attorney Brad Bickerstaff says.

Bickerstaff is helping prosecute the cases heading to court, one of which is the infamous T&T Cigar and Food Mart on Warm Springs Road.

The establishment has been busted for alleged illegal gambling and drugs twice in less than three months.

Assistant District Attorney Katie Morris says it's becoming a major issue in the valley.

"This is a growing trend, and it's something that unfortunately is a problem that continues to prevail," says Morris.

Sujal Patel, 33, was arrested during the second raid at  T&T Food Mart. He's charged with violation of a controlled substance and possession of a drug related object.

The owner of T&T and another employee were arrested weeks prior after narcotics agents raided the establishment on suspicions of illegal gambling and drugs.

Each suspect bailed out of jail the same day they were arrested.  The doors of the business remain opened.

"The business is not criminally liable. It's just the individual that we catch," Bickerstaff says.

Bickerstaff says it does take some time for prosecutors to build a strong enough case against the accused.  He's says it's hard to determine how long it will take for the cases to head to court.

"You never know. Ninety-eight percent of the cases end up as guilty pleas or plea outs. It just depends on the particular work load. We try to get to them as soon as possible but we have a lot of cases."

In March alone half a dozen businesses were raided.  Commercial gambling is punishable by from one to five years in prison and up to a $20,000 fine.

Patel pleaded not guilty in a preliminary hearing Saturday.  His bond has been set at $5,0250; he's currently out on bond.

Bickerstaff says we can expect some of the cases to start heading to trial in the next month or so.

Copyright 2013 WTVM. All rights reserved.

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