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50,000 Pirate Videotapes Seized in N.Y. Raid

May 4, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ Fifty-thousand illegal copies of movies, including ″A Rage in Harlem,″ which hadn’t yet been released in theaters, were seized in a raid on a video warehouse, a prosecutor said Friday.

The Motion Picture Association of America says it was the country’s largest pirate video operation, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said. Nine people were arrested.

The videotapes confiscated Thursday from New York City Liquidators Inc. included illegal copies of ″Silence of the Lambs,″ ″Dances with Wolves,″ ″Home Alone,″ and ″New Jack City.″ There also were videocassettes of hard-core pornography, Morgenthau said.

In at least one case, bootleg copies were available days before the film was even released to theaters, police said. ″A Rage in Harlem,″ was scheduled for release in theaters Friday.

Mark Harrad, spokesman for the Motion Picture Association, said the early availability means movie industry employees are making legal copies available to pirates.

Harrad said illegal taping has been increasing and costs the movie industry hundreds of millions of dollars a year in lost ticket sales and lost videocassette sales and rentals. Most illegal taping goes on in New York, he said.

He said some video pirates smuggle camcorders into movie theaters and tape films right off the screen. These low-quality copies sell for $10 or $15 on street corners in New York and Washington and are less of a threat to the movie industry, he said.

Authorities began investigating New York City Liquidators Inc. about a month ago after a Penthouse magazine official brought in a pirated copy of ″Caligula,″ Morgenthau said.

The movie can be bought legally only through Penthouse.

Detectives on Thursday also seized about 50 videocassette recorders, film cassettes, and other electronic equipment, said Morgenthau. About $15,000 was taken from New York City Liquidators, a warehouse, he said.

Police found $375,000 - in coat pockets, in boxes and on shelves - at the home of Norman Brill, who allegedly was part of the New York City Liquidators operation, Morgenthau said.

″The way the money was spread around the house it was a fire hazard,″ the prosecutor said.

Morgenthau alleges Brill, 53, sold wholesale and retail and shipped tapes by United Parcel Service. He said investigators believe Brill made millions of dollars in the past two years through illegal videotapes.

Brill and the eight other men arrested were charged with advertisement or sale of unauthorized recordings.

Their prosecution would be the first under a state law enacted last November that makes videotape piracy punishable by up to four years in prison.

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