Stop! In the name of the ... recording industry?!
The RIAA, which has long been policing the Internet for copyright-infringing file-sharers, strapped on its real-life gumshoes and assisted in one of the largest busts of pirated CDs ever.
Several investigators from the Recording Industry Association of America helped a team of U.S. Secret Service agents seize hundreds of CD burners and thousands of pirated CDs and DVDs Monday morning from a Queens, New York, building, according to a Secret Service spokesperson. Zhong Rong Chen, Angel Ivan Espinoza and Mario Perez Flores were arrested and face charges of trafficking in counterfeit labels, criminal copyright infringement and trademark counterfeiting. Chen is believed to be a leader of the operation headquartered at 47-28 37th Street.
Thirty-five thousand finished CD-Rs, 10,000 DVDs, the equivalent of 421 CD-R burners, eight Rimage Imprinters (used to print on the disc surfaces), one high-end color copier valued at $75,000 and other materials used in the manufacturing process were seized. Approximately a quarter of the finished CDs contained Latin music.
An RIAA statement estimated the illegal operation could have potentially been costing the industry near $90 million annually, and that the organization had the capacity to churn out at least 6 million pirated discs per year.
"This is a major blow to the music pirates who were robbing record companies, artists, legitimate retailers and countless others in the industry of millions of hard-earned dollars," said Frank Creighton, executive vice president and director of the RIAA's Anti-Piracy Unit, in a statement. "This operation should pay further dividends because we have successfully struck at one of the major choke points for music piracy in the New York City area."
The raid capped off a two-month joint investigation of a what the RIAA called a well-organized music piracy operation that supplied pirated CDs to individual vendors, stores and distribution centers on Manhattan's Canal Street, a popular strip for bootlegs and knock-offs of all types, from handbags to wristwatches.