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DV Pilot police & fire

‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Unstoppable’ among pirate DVDs seized by State Police

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

Why see “Unstoppable,” “Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows” and “Paranormal Activity 2″ in a theater when you can buy them right now? That was the idea of a Bronx man found carrying nearly 2,250 pirated DVDs, including those three popular titles, when a trooper stopped his minivan on Route 80 in Ridgefield Park, State Police said.

New Jersey State Police Trooper Gerard Tibbs, a five-year veteran from the Totowa Barracks, pulled over the green Honda Odyssey minivan last night for failing to keep right on the interstate, Sergeant First Class Stephen Jones told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

Inside, the trooper found a trove of DVDs, Blue Ray disks, and CDs — among them, several recorded movies still playing in theaters and not yet released for purchase. These included “Unstoppable,” “Harry Potter…,” and “Paranormal…,” a source with direct knowledge of the seizure told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

Time was, a movie pirate slipped a camcorder into a theater, so that the bootlegs included audience noises and the occasional head or two. Before the advent of widescreen high-definition TVs, the sides of the pictures were cut off, as well.

Now, black-market buccaneers pay theater owners or projectionists to let them plug directly into the computerized projector, delivering high-quality, feature-length masters, which are then converted by hundreds of machines into copies that are labeled, boxed, wrapped and shipped. The discs, jewel boxes and label paper are bought in bulk for a nominal cost.

Vendors illegally sell the discs at flea markets, neighborhood shops — and sometimes even online. They also set up on urban streets, laying out the discs — complete with high-quality reproductions of the cover art — on tables or blankets. Costs range from $5 to $10.

Bergenline Avenue in Union City has long been a favorite location for pirated sales, along with Paterson, Jersey City and Newark.

The driver Tuesday night, 54-year-old Milton Yagual, is being held on $50,000 cash bail, charged with selling counterfeit merchandise. The van was impounded, and NJSP detectives conducted the time-consuming process of logging in the various titles.

Thanks to the vigilance of the State Police, New Jersey is one of the nation’s leaders — behind New York and, obviously, Los Angeles — in confiscating illegal movie knockoffs.

Although Tuesday’s arrest was from a random stop, the State Police have a Special Operations Interdiction Squad, an arm of the Criminal Enterprise and Racketeering Bureau. That’s how widespread piracy is.

A State Police detective called it “the entry-level, white-collar crime of the day…. They seem to be a very close-knit group, very well-organized.”

Counterfeit copies cost the motion picture industry billions. But the movie industry isn’t the only business hurt by counterfeiters.

“There are certain areas where you’d be hard-pressed to find a legitimate video store — and that’s because the legitimate guy can’t compete anymore,” a private investigator said. As each honest dealer closes shop, he said, a municipality loses tax revenue.

The Motion Picture Association of America offers up to $15,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of video pirates. The number: (800) NO-COPYS.

Under state law, pirating copyrighted materials carries fines up to $250,000.

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