Suspected drug deal turns into big bootlegging bust

Officers find nearly 1,500 DVDs, CDs - some that haven’t been released to the public yet

April 08, 2009 at 9:19 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

A sampling of the nearly 1,500 DVDs and CDs that were confiscated by sheriff’s deputies during a bootlegging bust.
Jonathan Menard
A sampling of the nearly 1,500 DVDs and CDs that were confiscated by sheriff’s deputies during a bootlegging bust.
The potential blockbuster movie “X Men Origins: Wolverine” may not be released in theaters until May 1, but some residents in St. Charles Parish were able to get their hands on bootleg copies of the film, according to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office.

That movie, along with nearly 1,500 other illegal copies of DVDs and CDs, were found by sheriff's deputies who at first thought they were making a routine drug stop. The deputies had witnessed a hand-to-hand transaction on the 500 Block of East Club Drive in St. Rose on April 3 and pulled over the vehicle they had seen make the sale. But instead of drugs, deputies found several hundred copies of bootleg DVDs and CDs, according to Sheriff Greg Champagne.

Officers then obtained a warrant to search the residences of the driver of the vehicle, Billy Huntley, 54, of 312 Turtle Creek Lane in St. Rose, and the passenger, Ruby Batiste, 46, of 420B Smith St. in Hahnville.

All together, nearly 1,500 DVDs and CDs, which included such movies as “The Wrestler,” “Kung Fu Panda,” “High School Musical 3,” “X Men Origins: Wolverine” and “Gran Torino,” were found in the searches.

“The two were selling pirated DVDs and CDs and the operation was described kind of like the ice cream man, except without the music,” Champagne said. “They would drive down the street and people would come to the vehicle to see what DVDs they had.

“The DVDs and CDs were selling for $2 to $3 a disc.”

Champagne said that the information gathered from the arrests has also been forwarded to the FBI as well as the District Attorney’s Office, since both federal and state laws make this activity illegal. Champagne has also met with representatives from the Motion Picture Association.

“There is a large market for this and apparently it is a booming business,” Champagne said. “In fact, pirated DVDs and music is estimated to be an $8 billion illegal activity worldwide. In many cases, it goes hand in hand with organized crime and drug trafficking, although that does not seem to be the case here.”

Champagne said that there was a much smaller bootlegging operation that was busted  inside the parish several years ago, but that now his deputies and detectives are more in tune on what to look for.

“If we find anyone selling bootleg DVDs or CDs, we will arrest them and we urge citizens aware of such activity to report it to us immediately to avoid being implicated themselves,” Champagne said. “We’re going to seek it out, arrest those that are doing it, and turn them over to the FBI.

“This is a big problem that hurts the local economy, which has developed a substantial market for the overall movie making business.”

Huntley has been charged with sound reproductions without consent, possession of tools/equipment for sound reproduction and illegal use of counterfeit trademark. His bond was set at $25,000 by Judge St. Pierre. Batiste faces the same charges and also had a bond of $25,000 set by St. Pierre. She was released on April 4 after posting $2,530.

The two could face up to five years in jail for each disc in their possession.

Champagne said that it is OK to copy a DVD or CD for a person’s own personal use, but it is illegal to make a profit off of the copy.

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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