The arrest of two suspected video pirates in Phoenix on Tuesday caught the attention of Hollywood executives trying to curb a multibillion-dollar black market of illegally copied movies and television shows.
"This is a significant arrest," said Mikhail Reider-Gordon of the Motion Picture Association of America. "They were certainly doing high, high volume."
Joseph Hwang, 25, and Jefferson Rice, 33, were arrested at a Sheraton hotel near Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and booked into a Maricopa County jail, officials said.
They were apparently ready to catch a flight out of town, said Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The pair had recently been evicted from their northwest Phoenix apartment, but still in the apartment were "many" sealed boxes of counterfeit videos that appeared ready to ship out, Arpaio said.
Hwang and Rice had lived in the Valley since 2000, selling so many illegal videos on the Internet site eBay they had attracted the attention of the FBI, postmaster general, state attorney general and the film industry, he said.
Some customers who ordered the tapes complained about their poor quality to the state attorney general, and others said they had received nothing for their money, Arpaio said. The computer crimes squad of the sheriff’s office launched an investigation in December, he said.
Reider-Gordon said a Warner Bros. executive approached the movie association months ago about the suspected pirates after seeing a video for sale on eBay that was not yet released in the United States. The association helped authorities worldwide raid 18,000 suspected video piracy outfits in 2000 alone, according to the association’s Web site, www.mpaa.org.