Baltimore police have shut down four street vendors accused of selling bootlegged copies of movies months before they are to be released in video stores, seizing more than 500 cassettes.
Four people were arrested in separate raids Wednesday afternoon on a West Baltimore street corner and in front of the state office complex on West Preston Street, where police said tapes were being sold from an old Chevrolet van.
The movies, which sold for $10 each, included "Waterworld," "Pocahontas," "Under Siege II," "The Net" and "Species" -- popular films that are playing in theaters and are not scheduled to be in video stores for at least nine months.
Wayne C. Jirsa, a Maryland field representative for the Motion Picture Association of America, said illegal copies of "Waterworld" hit the streets the day after its theater debut July 28.
"A lot of people don't realize how much money the sellers are making," Mr. Jirsa said, who estimated Wednesday's seizure to be worth $28,000. "They run to Philadelphia, pay four dollars for each tape and sell it here for $10."
Mr. Jirsa said that tapes of first-run movies usually are made by people who sit in the audience with camcorders. The practice costs the movie industry $250 million a year, he said.
City police said that two undercover detectives made buys from dealers in the 1800 block of Pennsylvania Ave. and in the 300 block of W. Preston St.
Rickey Richard Jones, 39, and Kevin Demetrius Jenifer, 32, were arrested at the Pennsylvania Avenue location, where police said they seized 224 videos. Abdur Rahman Mussa Musaediq, 24, and Quentin David Flowers, 25, were arrested at the West Preston Street location. Police said they found 280 videos there.
Each of the suspects was charged with selling tapes that do not have the names of the film company or actors in a prominent place, a misdemeanor that carries a $2,500 fine and one year in jail. The suspects were released on personal recognizance yesterday to await a September trial date.