Five persons were arested here yesterday in the culmination of a nine-month undercover FBI investigation into the illegal manufacture, distribution and sale of eight-track stereo tapes, the FBI reported.
The arrests-three at a Capitol Hill area hotel and two at National Airport-came after about 50,000 pirated tapes were delivered to undercover agents at a warehouse near 11th and V Streets NW, the FBI said.
An FBI spokesman put the street-side value of the pirated tapes at about $262,000. The undercover agents paid "substantially less" for the tapes, the spokesman said.
Nick F. Stames, Special agent in charge of the FBI's Washington field office quoted a spokesman for the recording industry as saying that pirated tapes cost legitimate manufacturers about $150 million a year in sales.
Those arrested yesterday were identified by the FBI as follows:
Alton I. Greene, 28, and Richard S. Nelson, 31, both of Lexington, N.C.: Richard S. Webster, 51, of Germantown, NC.: Richy Colville, 23, of Tobanccoville, N.C. and Maurice H. Rishel, 58, of Suitland.
No street address for Rishel could be obtained immediately. However an FBI spokesman identified him as a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve and a civilian employee at Andrews Air Force Base.
The FBI said the arrests followed an investigation of alleged violations of laws on " copyright, conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen property. However the specific charge places against each of the five suspects could not be learned.
Describing the pirating of tapes as an extremely lucrative form of white collar crime, Stames cited a high profit margin, guaranteed market and low risk.
An FBI spokesman said the pirated tapes are sold "everywhere . . . on many street corners . . . on shopping center parking lots," usually at prices two to four dollars below the cost of legitimate tapes.
Although the packages containing pirated tapes generally list the name of the performer and the recorded songs. Packaging is less "sophisticated" than for legitimate tapes, an FBI spokesman.
An audio analysis of suspected tape at FBI laboratories can determine whether it has been produced by tape pirates, according to the spokesman.
Describing Washington as one of the major markets for the pirated tapes, the spokesman said that the local FBI field office has spearheaded the investigation, which has spanned the nation.
According to Stames, search and seizure warrants issued in connection with the investigation are expected to be issued throughout the eastern United States and additional arrests are anticipated.
After making initial contacts with "low level street vendors," the FBI said, undercover agents infiltrated "some of the largest known manufacturers."
In yesterday's operation, an FBI spokesman said, tapes were brought by van to the warehouse where undercover agents took delivery.