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Movie Thief Fined, Sentenced to Work

October 11, 2000|GREG RISLING

A Burbank man was sentenced Tuesday for his involvement in a theft scheme that allowed the sale of pre-released movies on the Internet to more than 70 clients around the world.

James Cofer, 25, pleaded no contest to one count of receiving stolen property. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William C. Ryan sentenced Cofer to 60 days on a Caltrans work crew and three years probation, and ordered him to pay $1,450 in fines.

Cofer was working as a manager at a Burbank post-production facility in 1998 when he took 20 to 25 pre-release movies from a high-security vault, Deputy City Atty. P. Greg Parham said. The films were given to 23-year-old Michael Gerhard of Toluca Lake, who allegedly copied them and returned them to Cofer for replacement in the vault. Gerhard also pleaded no contest Sept. 12 and was given the option to serve four months in jail or 60 days on a work crew. He also was ordered to pay $10,900 in fines and serve three years probation, authorities said.

The bulk of the stolen movies, none of which had been released on video, were Walt Disney Co. productions such as "Toy Story II," "Mulan" and "Fantasia 2000."

Gerhard was allegedly selling copies of the videotapes and film scores over the Internet. After an investigation that began in 1998, authorities served a search warrant at Gerhard's home, where they seized 448 videotapes, 842 compact discs and 272 DVDs.

Police also scanned the hard drive of Gerhard's computer, along with personal papers and an address book, revealing that he was selling the videotapes to more than 70 people around the world.

Authorities suspect the two men were responsible for making more than 500 copies of the 20-plus pre-release movies.

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