Prince George's County police have arrested a Temple Hills man described as the biggest distributor of pirated movies and music in the Washington area after they seized more than 80,000 bootleg videotapes and compact discs from two warehouses this week.
Acting on tips from the Motion Picture Association of America, investigators confiscated 59,000 illegally copied compact discs from an Oxon Hill warehouse on Wednesday and about 24,000 counterfeit videotapes from a nearby storage unit, police said yesterday. They estimated the total retail value of the goods at $2 million.
Police said the distribution network was run by Roger West Bynum, 53, of the 4400 block of 21st Avenue in Temple Hills.
The haul amounted to the biggest seizure of pirated videotapes in Maryland and the largest single-day confiscation of bogus compact discs in the country, according to officials from the MPAA and the Recording Industry Association of America.
"It's an enormous operation," said Prince George's Police Chief John S. Farrell. "This is a reflection of a huge pirating industry that takes place across the country."
Bynum, who police said goes by the nickname "Cowboy," was arrested Wednesday and charged with counterfeiting trademarks and transferring recorded sound without the consent of the owner, which carry a maximum sentence of 15 years and one year in prison, respectively, according to charging documents.
Both charges are misdemeanors, and investigators complained that the probable penalties aren't stiff enough to deter what they described as a burgeoning bootleg industry in the region.
Indeed, by the time police assembled the confiscated loot so they could display it in front of TV cameras and reporters at a news conference yesterday, Bynum was a free man. He was released from custody Thursday after he posted a $7,500 bond, according to court records.
William J. Shannon, deputy director of anti-piracy operations for the MPAA, described Bynum as the primary supplier of counterfeit videotapes to the Washington region. Shannon said Bynum has been under surveillance by MPAA investigators for the last six months, during which time he purchased 10,000 to 15,000 videotapes a week from illegal production labs in New York City for about $2 a copy before reselling them on the street locally for about $10 a tape.
"He's been a major source of pirated videos in the Washington area for a number of years," Shannon said. "We've been trying to put him out of business for a long time."
Shannon said the bootleg films are produced by "freelance cameramen" who attend premiere showings of popular movies in New York and film them from their seats with video cameras. Illegal labs mass-produce the tapes and package them with authentic-looking labels that are copied from movie posters or ads.
Videos confiscated from the Oxon Hill warehouses and displayed by police yesterday included such recently released titles as "Tarzan," "Big Daddy," "The General's Daughter" and "Enemy of the State."
Bynum declined to comment yesterday when reached by phone at his home in Temple Hills. But his wife, Santia Bynum, said the confiscated tapes and compact discs were hers, not her husband's. She said she bought them in New York and acknowledged that she intended to resell them locally.
"They are unjustly accusing my husband," she said. "It's all my stuff. I don't know how many there are. I don't count it; I just sell it."
Police said they have not charged Santia Bynum in the case. She declined to comment further, saying she needed to speak with her lawyer.