PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — The U.S. Marshals Service raided the offices of Media West Entertainment Inc. on Thursday, resulting in the seizure of thousands of allegedly pirated DVDs from Bel Ami, Cocky Boys and other well-known gay brands.
The raid at the Media West's Palm Springs, Calif., warehouse comes after a federal court judgment in favor of BelAmi and Media Partners for $4.975 million against the distributor, which reportedly sold the DVDs through Junior DVD and MaleMall.com.
The Palm Springs residence of Media West's owner, David Aldorf, also was included in the raid, which involved half a dozen armed federal marshals wearing bulletproof vests.
Federal marshals, acting on a judge's order, descended on the warehouse and Aldorf's home in search of at least 40 titles thought to be illegally replicated.
But marshals found much more than just Bel Ami and Cocky Boys titles; they found thousands more in plain sight from Falcon, Raging Stallion, JOCKS, Treasure Island, Dark Alley, Bait Bus, EuroCreme, Men.com, Next Door, Staxus, Helix Studios, Chaos Men and more, according to Bel Ami officials.
"The raid proved it was much worse than we even thought because in addition to thousands of copies of the 33 titles listed in the seizure order thousands more copies from other well known studios were discovered," said industry attorney Gill Sperlein, who represents BelAmi and Media Partners.
Sperlein said the raid netted a large scale, fully functioning and thriving operation, even after Aldorf and Media West were found liable for $4.975 million in a default judgment in July. Aldorf continued to not only replicate the DVDs but also continued to distribute them via his mail order business and website.
"With so much attention paid to online piracy these days I hope this highlights the huge problem the DVD business has been facing for over a decade," Sperlein said. "People like David Aldorf going unchecked for years while making money on the back of hardworking producers, single handedly helping to kill off the DVD business as we know it.
"Those days are soon over and next we will be looking at the replicators and printers who knowingly aid people who illegally pirate and distribute other people's content," he said. "Shockingly during the raid documents in plain view were discovered that showed Mr. Aldorf was using one of the industry's largest replicators to replicate much of the products being pirated in addition to a brand new in-house replication system which was discovered as well."
Bel Ami's Stuart Davis said in a statement that the suit and resulting raid was a victory not only for BelAmi and Media Partners but really for anyone in the DVD business.
"The more people like David Aldorf that are stopped the better the chances of BelAmi and other studios will have continued success with our DVD lines in the years to come," Davis said. "Let this be a reminder to pirates that there are companies who will fight to protect our content."
Media Partners' Hugo Harley said the company had been tracking and fighting Aldorf for the past two years on behalf of producers they represent, at great cost, time and effort.
"We needed this stopped both for our producers and legitimate wholesale buyers," Harley said. "Media Partner's other producers who have had their works infringed on are Cobra Video, Eboys, EuroCreme, Video Boys, and Alpha Male Media."
Aldorf was not present at the raid because he has been hospitalized, but two employees were present, Bel Ami officials said.