DVD bootleggers face still penalties

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 15, 2009


HAHNVILLE — There was no happy ending for a pair of St. Charles residents who were caught selling illegal copies of movies on DVD in a St. Rose area earlier this month.

At a press conference last week, St. Charles Sheriff Greg Champagne said undercover detectives came across the bootleg operation while on patrol in the 500 block of East Club Drive on April 3.

Champagne said the detectives thought they had witnessed a drug deal when they watched an unidentified woman approach a vehicle on the block, hand over cash and walk away with a purchase. When the cops pulled the vehicle over, Champagne said they discovered a trunk load of pirated CDs and DVDs with illegal copies of movies, some of which have not even been released into theaters. Champagne said a drug deal would have put the suspects in less hot water.

“Selling $3 worth of marijuana is only a misdemeanor,” Champagne said. “Selling bootleg movies carries a fine of $5,000 a piece and up to five years of prison time for each illegal copy.”

The occupants of the vehicle, Billy Huntley, 54, 312 Turtle Creek Lane, St. Rose, and Ruby Batiste, 46, 420B Smith St., Hahnville, were booked into the Nelson Coleman Correctional Facility in Killona on charges of sound reproductions without consent, possession of tools or equipment for sound reproduction and illegal use of counterfeit trademark. Champagne said both were released after posting a percentage of a $25,000 bond.

A search of Huntley’s home following the arrest turned up about 1,500 copies of music CDs and movies such as “Kung Fu Panda,” “The Wrestler,” “Grand Torino,” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” which isn’t even scheduled for release in the US until Friday. Champagne said detectives also recovered equipment that could be used to copy several DVDs at one time.

“The two were selling the 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 authorities with the FBI and the District Attorney’s Office are also involved in the investigation since both federal and state laws make this activity illegal. The Sheriff said he has also met with representatives from the Motion Picture Association.

“This is becoming a growing problem worldwide and could also indirectly affect our local economy in that our parish and surrounding areas have become a popular location for the filming of motion pictures,” Champagne said. “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.”

This recent bust is not the first time a St. Charles resident has been caught selling illegal DVDs. Champagne said deputies broke up a much smaller bootlegging operation several years ago, but now his detectives are more in tune with what to look for.