Friday, August 22, 2003

FBI officials displayed CD and DVD recordable drives and pirated movies and video games at a press conference yesterday.

FBI busts huge
video piracy ring

A grand jury indicts nine
Oahu residents for allegedly
copying and selling CDs and DVDs

A federal grand jury indicted nine Leeward and Central Oahu residents Wednesday on criminal copyright infringement charges for allegedly copying and selling an estimated 200,000 copies of movies and video games.

FBI officials said it is the largest illegal operation in the country busted by law enforcement involving video compact disc and digital versatile disc production.

The FBI seized more than 9,000 illegally copied movies and video games and between 80 and 100 CD and DVD recordable drives or "burners."

The operation had the capability of "burning" 100 discs in five minutes, and were producing several thousand weekly, said FBI Special Agent Daniel McLaughlin.

This is one of the first cases of copyright violations to be prosecuted in Hawaii involving CD and DVD burners, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Nakamura.

"With this prosecution, I hope we will send a message of deterrence to would-be counterfeiters of movies and video games," said U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo.

FBI officials said the elaborate computer recording equipment filled the small apartment in which it was found.

The defendants allegedly sold video CDs to runners for $3 to $5 apiece, who in turn sold them at swap meets, parks, nightclubs and private homes for $5 to $7, or sold the discs themselves.

The FBI conducted a 16-month investigation where undercover agents posing as customers bought the contraband and traced the evidence to the top of the ring.

Two of the defendants are also accused of modifying Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation 2 consoles by installing a computer chip in each of them that would allow pirated games to be played on them, overriding a security system that permits only use of authorized games. The modified game systems were allegedly sold with bootleg games.

At $5 to $7, the video games, which sell for $50 retail, are more popular than the movies, said McLaughlin.

Five of the nine men and women, who include three couples, were arrested yesterday and released on a $25,000 signature bond with the restriction of no access to the Internet and CD and DVD recordable drives. Three were served summonses and are to appear in court next week.

Those indicted are Mililani residents Joseph Companion, 32, and Tricia San Agustin, 34; Ewa Beach residents Daniel Peters, 34, Bobbie Jean Peters, 30, Akiu Sale, 27, Temukisa Fuatagavi, 28, and Walter Griffin, 25; and Waipahu residents Shawn Rivera, 30, and Reynie Andres, 50. Fuatagavi remained at large as of yesterday afternoon.

The unauthorized copying or sale for private gain of 10 or more copyrighted works with a retail value of more than $2,500 is a felony, with a maximum of five years' imprisonment without parole and a $250,000 fine.

Trial is set for Oct. 21.


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