$4.06 Million in Counterfeit Movies, Music Seized in L.A.


A Bulgarian worker prepares to destroy tens of thousands of counterfeit DVDs and CDs with movies, music and software in Sofia on June 3, 2008. The pirated CDs were seized over the last year during Bulgarian police operations.

An anti-piracy task force called Operation Chimney Sweep involving L.A. police and sheriffs arrested 10 people and seized $4.06 million worth of counterfeit movies, music and apparel, L.A. city controller Wendy Greuel announced Wednesday during a news conference.

The arrests were made by dozens of officers who worked with private industry investigators to make raids throughout Los Angeles.

Larry Hahn, director of U.S. content protection for the MPAA, thanked the city and the LAPD for their "sustained commitment to curbing piracy," as did Marcus Cohen, director of investigations in the Western Region for the music industry trade organization RIAA.

"Their hard work has resulted in heightened consumer awareness, more criminals off the street, the implementation of meaningful new policies and -- during this holiday season and in this difficult economic time -- the preservation of many jobs of those in the creative community whose livelihoods are directly threatened by this theft," Cohen said. "This historic holiday enforcement action sends a strong message to criminals that this kind of illegal activity won't be tolerated while raising a red flag for last-minute holiday shoppers."

The task force, created in 2004, has served 181 search warrants, made 498 arrests and seized $93.8 million worth of illegal goods. According to Greuel, when one combines the efforts of the LAPD and L.A. County Sheriff's Department the past five years, there have been 700 arrests and more than $305 million worth of counterfeit goods seized.

"People who make counterfeit goods are stealing, plain and simple, It's the same as picking someone's pocket or shoplifting," Greuel said. "We lose more than 100,000 jobs and billions of dollars to our economy each year because of these crimes. During these difficult economic times, every dollar lost to piracy represents wages lost for hardworking Angelenos.

"This should serve as a wake-up call, not only to the criminals that produce and sell these illegal goods, but to all of the holiday shoppers out there. Piracy is serious business, but we are determined to sweep it out of Los Angeles."