Los Angeles police seized 22,500 pirated DVDs and two customized vans, one serving as a mobile DVD burning lab and the other as a mobile pirate-DVD store, the Motion Picture Assn. of American said Oct

NEW YORK -- Los Angeles police seized 22,500 pirated DVDs and two customized vans, one serving as a mobile DVD burning lab and the other as a mobile pirate-DVD store, the Motion Picture Assn. of American said Oct. 28.

The LAPD's Organized Crime Vice Division Piracy Unit, working with MPAA investigators, raided two homes early Oct. 27, discovering a converted garage at one location with over 5,500 pirated DVDs and $1,300 in cash, and an attic at the other location with four burning towers and over 8,000 finished DVDs.

Nearby, police found the two vans, one with nine burners -- each capable of burning seven DVDs simultaneously -- and over 3,000 DVDs, and the second "mobile store" with five built-in shelves to display over 5,200 packaged DVDs. Customers entering the van could pick from a selection that included many titles still in theatrical release.

They arrested four men: Humberto Espinosa, the alleged ring leader and registered owner of the vans, Ivan Franco, Justino Rodriguez and Hugo Garcia. Espinosa and Franco were each charged with five felony counts for violating California law that makes failing to disclose the origin of a recording or audiovisual work a crime. The MPAA did not reveal whether the other two men have been charged.

"Movie thieves are growing much bolder in their efforts to traffic in illegal DVDs," says James W. Spertus, VP/director of U.S. Anti-Piracy Operations for the MPAA. "The mobile lab and store uncovered in today's LAPD raid illustrate the increasing sophistication of these organized criminal rings that are engaging in wide ranging and serious crimes."

The LAPD has connected the Espinosa operation with several other raids conducted earlier in the month.