A young Burbank cable network has been forced off the air by intruders who backed a truck up to the network's studio and carted away every piece of filming and broadcasting equipment in the building.
The question now is whether the removal was theft or repossession.
Peter O'Neil, the 22-year-old president of the Pacific Cable Network, said the people who took $2 million worth of equipment from his studios Thursday were part of a conspiracy to force Pacific Cable out of business.
Police confiscated the missing goods Friday from a Carson video company that claimed it was merely repossessing equipment it leased to Pacific Cable. Investigators are not sure whose story to believe, said Capt. James Gibson.
Officials at the purported owners of the equipment, CSI Video Center, refused to comment.
Meanwhile, the Burbank Police Department said it will hold the equipment until the courts decide who has legal rights to it.
That means that Pacific Cable, which began producing and broadcasting a daily schedule of news, sports, talk shows and movies Sept. 1, has been left with no way to broadcast. The company has told its 60 employees to go home, leaving them unsure whether they will be laid off.
Office Called Ransacked
"This just destroys us," O'Neil said, sitting in an disheveled office he claimed had been ransacked by the intruders.
The network was broadcast through an RCA cable satellite to 845 cable television systems with 6 million viewers from Rochester, N.Y., to Hawaii, O'Neil said.
The network's shows included a weekly amateur music program and "Horror Theater," a weekly horror movie hosted by an Elvira takeoff in skimpy lingerie, said Tyrone Johnson, a Pacific Cable producer and security guard.
On Friday, the studio from which "Horror Theater" is broadcast was stripped of everything but a backdrop.
Police knew where to look for Pacific Cable's cameras, lights, satellite transmitters and other equipment because they had watched it being taken away, Gibson said.
Gibson said two patrol officers responded to a burglary call around noon Thursday and discovered several people loading the equipment into a truck from a loading dock on the side of the Pacific Cable building.
The people taking the equipment told the officers they were repossessing it for CSI Video Center and provided proof of ownership, so the officers left without taking action, Gibson said.
Meanwhile, O'Neil said, he and his staff were at lunch with a man who said he wanted to invest in Pacific Cable. The man, O'Neil said, invited the entire PCN staff to lunch at a nearby restaurant, kept them there for three hours, then disappeared, leaving O'Neil with a $300 lunch tab and an empty broadcasting studio. O'Neil said he believed the lunch was part of a ploy to leave the offices vacant.
Burbank investigators went to CSI Video Center on Friday afternoon and confiscated the equipment after O'Neil filed a burglary report and showed officers that whoever took the equipment had broken in through a second-story window.
Gibson said the case will be turned over to the district attorney's office for possible prosecution.
"It could be a criminal case; it could be civil. We don't know," Gibson said.
Pacific Cable was suffering from "growing pains" and sought to reorganize its debts under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy law in December, O'Neil said.
Pacific Cable was embarking on a new plan to offer public stocks and attract new investors, several of whom were scheduled to tour the studios next week, O'Neil said.