Tan shop owners behind bars

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Two Florala men were jailed Monday following allegations they secretly watched their customers at Westside Video and Tans as they undressed and dressed while tanning.

Florala Chief Sonny Bedsole said the arrests followed a discovery by a female customer who noticed a video camera above the tanning bed Monday morning and reported it to police.

Officers from law enforcement agencies throughout the county, as well as those from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, spent Monday looking through the men’s retail business and Eighth Avenue home before leaving the scenes with a multitude of video surveillance and computer equipment.

“This is what we know thus far,” Bedsole said. “We located both marijuana and meth inside the business. We also found an active camera on a wireless camera system that was being fed to an office-type area above the video store.

“We know that the video stream was being viewed by the two, but what we don’t know at this point was whether or not there are videos or images on those computers,” he said. “That’s where ABI’s cyber crimes unit comes in.”

Bedsole said he could know as early as Friday if images were found on the seized equipment.

Tuesday, Bedsole said numerous parents and other concerned patrons had contacted the department about the status of the case.

“They’re concerned about privacy issues – and rightly so,” he said. “We all know that is a situation where a customer is in various states of disrobe, and if you’re a parent of a 14-year-old who tans there, you have a right to be concerned.

“We’re asking anyone who feels like they were specially directed to a specific bed or noticed anything unusual to come by and see us,” he said.

Bedsole said when the surveillance began, the men initially vacated the Florala area but were ultimately located in Andalusia and taken into custody.

He said if there were recordings of teens and young adults, it could lead to federal charges and placing both the business and residential property subject to seizure.

The two men face two counts of possession of a controlled substance, two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia and one count of criminal surveillance. Each was held in the Covington County Jail under a $250,000 bond.

*Editor’s note: The identities of the two men involved were inadvertently left out of the web edition of this story. They are: Timothy Townsend, 37, and Ricardo Perez, 37.