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2 L.A. Sites Raided in Piracy Cases

May 22, 2004|James Bates and Jon Healey | Times Staff Writers

In one of the largest bootleg-movie raids to date, Los Angeles police said Friday that they had shut down two operations that together could illegally copy 2.7 million DVDs a year.

The raids were part of a push by Hollywood studios and law enforcement authorities to close down a burgeoning black market for movies. The films are typically recorded in movie theaters on a digital camcorder, copied with DVD burners and then sold by street vendors or distributed over the Internet.

Police found the bigger of the operations in an apartment on South Bonnie Brae in the Pico-Union area, where officials said they discovered more than 8,000 DVDs with films that included such recent releases as "Mean Girls" and "Troy" and the not-yet-released "Soul Plane." Police also seized 58 DVD burners, 17,200 blank discs, 18 VCRs and $10,000.

Fernando Arista, 40, was arrested and charged with 11 felony counts. Police said they learned of the operation while investigating vendors in the Santee Alley area downtown. Motion Picture Assn. of America officials estimated that the Pico-Union facility could produce 2 million counterfeit DVDs a year.

William J. Shannon, the MPAA's U.S. anti-piracy director, said such large operations "could be set up pretty easily."

Police also raided a site on Record Avenue in East Los Angeles, where they said they found 315 DVDs, including copies of "Troy." The operation, with 20 DVD burners, could produce 700,000 illegal DVDs a year, the MPAA said. Police arrested Miguel Angeles, 32, and Maria Camarina, 27. They each were charged with five felony counts.

The MPAA estimates that studios lose $3.5 billion a year to bootleggers. John G. Malcolm, director of the association's anti-piracy operation, said the LAPD raids "drive a stake into the heart of a den of thieves."

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