A retired Air Force officer told undercover FBI agents that he got into the business of pirating eight-track stereo tapes "for retirement purposes" and that he had produced 5 million pirated tapes, according to an affidavit filed by the FBI in U.S. District Court here yesterday.
Other persons who participated in the same complex distribution and production scheme with the retired officer. Maurice Henry Rishel, told agents that Rishel sold about $15,000 worth of pirated tapes a week, the afidavit continued.
Rishel, 58, who was a lieutenant colonel and who is now a GS-14 civilian employee at Andrews Air Force Base, has a legitimate business producing blank eight-track tape cartridge, the FBI said. However, he also produced the illegal pirated tapes both at a home in the Maryland suburbs and at his farm in Dover, Pa., the affifavit said.
Pirated tapes are illegal copies of legitimate recordings. They usually are of poorer sound quality than the original, but sell for three or four dollars less.
FBI officials said Washington is the largest market on the East Coast for pirated tapes, which are sold by street-corner vendors or regular retail outlets.
According to the affidavit, the tapes being distributed by Rishell were produced in North Carolina on lengthy reels known as "pancakes". A distributor such as Rishel would purchase the pancakes and repackage the songs into the regular tape containers for retail sales, according to the FBI.
Rishel was one of five persons arrested over the weekend in connection with the alleged tape piracy Scheme here, and furhter arrests are anticipated by the FBI.
The FBI began an undercover operation nine months ago to seek the source of pirated tapes in the Washington area, and much of that investigation was outlined in the affidavit filed in court yesterday.
The investigation began when undercover agents approached a seller of bootleg tapes and indicated they also wanted to buy large quantities of tapes. The seller put them in touch with his supplier, and the agents made several purchases of bootleg copies of top-selling tapes by such artists as Peter Frampton, KC and the Sunshine Band, and Stevie Wonder.
The agents arranged to meet Rishel to make direct purcahses of the "pancakes" so they could start their own distribution system, the affidavit continued. Rishel took the agents to Winston-Salem, N.C.. and helped arrange the purcahse of the "pancakes," according to the affidavit.
Some of the conversations between agents and Rishel were recoreded, according to the affidavit, and it is on those tapes that Rishel discussed the scope of his business.He said member of family helped him in the production of the pirated tapes, the affidavit continued, and he bragged about their ability to produce large numbers of the tapes.
The arrests came after an FBI agent posing as a large-scale financial backer in the tape piracy business arranged to make substantial purcahses from Rishel, according to the affidavit.
As an example of his good faith, the undercover agent deposited $60,000 in government funds in a joint safe-deposits box with Rishel. Out of those funds, the government purchased two vanloads of tapes - one for $10,200 and the other for $17,850.
All of the money was recovered after the arrests last Saturday, the FBI said. All of the arrested persons were released yesterday on various amounts of bond.