[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at 1999's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Wednesday, Sept. 8.]
Eleven alleged music pirates could each receive up to 15 years in prison
following the largest-ever police seizure of recordable CDs.
In a three-day series of raids ending Wednesday, police in Suffolk County,
N.Y., netted 80,000 allegedly counterfeit albums by Jennifer Lopez, Ricky
Martin, Madonna and dozens of other artists, according to Frank Creighton,
senior vice president of the Recording Industry Association of America.
Creighton, who oversees the RIAA's anti-piracy efforts, said Tuesday
(Sept. 7) that the raids were part of an ongoing six-month probe. "We
think it's going to have a tremendous ripple effect," he said. "We're
confident that this was the largest supplier in the Northeast."
Police seized $250,000 worth of equipment, which could have produced CDs
costing the record industry $100 million a year in lost sales, the RIAA
Pirates operated around the clock at three industrial parks in Bohemia,
Ronkonkoma and Holbrook, according to Creighton and police. The three
towns are in Suffolk County, on New York's Long Island.
Creighton said about 150 CD burners churned out discs designed to mimic
such official products as Madonna's Ray of Light (RealAudio
excerpt of title track) and Ma$e's Harlem World, which
includes the track "Get Ready" (RealAudio
A commercial print shop in Holbrook that was accused of creating inserts
for the discs also was raided. The CDs, along with thousands of
counterfeit cassettes, were shipped from distributors in the New York
City boroughs Queens and Manhattan. They were sent to cities throughout
the East Coast, at least as far west as Chicago and possibly to Puerto
Rico and the Dominican Republic, Creighton said.
Investigators slipped decoy CDs into the marketplace to help ferret out
the pirates, Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown said in a
statement. Creighton would not elaborate on how the operation worked.
Fifteen people were arrested. Police charged 11 with first-degree
counterfeiting, a felony that carries up to 15 years in prison as well as
fines, Suffolk County Police Sgt. Vincent Ward said. The rest face other
Stores purchased the CDs for about $4 or $5 each, several dollars less
than what they would pay for legitimate products, according to Creighton.
The counterfeit discs were marked with the name "Dan," the alleged pirates'
seal of identification, which helped police trace the bogus items. The
mark confirms the discs' origin in case stores attempt to return defective
CDs to the pirates, according to Creighton.
"It works the same way legitimate retail works," he said. "They want to
keep their customers happy."