In what is believed to be the first raid of its kind in the county, police closed down an Edgewater video store suspected of illegally pirating popular films.
During the Wednesday afternoon raid of Escape Video II in the 1200 block of Central Ave., investigators confiscated 649 videos that were allegedly copied from originals bought from a legitimate distributor, police spokesman Officer V. Richard Molloy said.
Meanwhile, sheriff's deputies in St. Mary's County raided another shop owned by the man who owns the Edgewater store and confiscated $50,000 worth of tapes and equipment used to copy the tapes.
The owner of the stores, Bob Waldow of Tracy's Landing, has not been charged, Molloy said, pending a review by state's attorney's offices here and in St. Mary's County.
Waldow could not be reached for comment yesterday.
At Escape Video in St. Mary's County, deputies found an elaborate taping system that included seven videocassette recorders, a television, a color copying machine, 300 videotapes and about 300 blank tapes and a heat machine for shrink-wrap, said Cpl. John Horne of the sheriff's department.
"He was using the heat shrinking machine to wrap the videos in plastic to make them appear new," he said.
The color copier was used to duplicate the labels from the original boxes, Horne said.
"The ironic thing is," Horne said, "at the bottom of the receipts he gave to his customers, there was a warning that said it was illegal to copy these tapes."
The investigation capped a two-month probe into the stores that began when patrons of the business called the Motion Picture Association of America in Washington and complained of the videotapes' poor quaility.
L "Some were fuzzy and went in and out of focus," Molloy said.
Association investigators rented some of the tapes from the store and were able to determine that most of them were pirated, Molloy said, adding that the association then contacted police.
Molloy said the tapes were being both sold and rented from the store.
An original legitimate movie cost about $60 from a distributor, he said.
Those originals were used to make a dozen or more copies for rent, police said. Molloy said it cost about $5 to make a copy.
Molloy said the tapes were rented for about $2 each and sold for from $19.95 to $39.95.
Horne said the stores had been in business for about 11 years.