LAWFUEL – Law News Network- A former Hollywood resident convicted last year of copyright infringement and other federal crimes related to his use of a video camcorder to secretly record motion pictures at private screenings was sentenced today to 84 months in federal prison.
Johnny Ray Gasca, 36, was sentenced by United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson in Los Angeles.
A federal jury found Gasca guilty in June 2005 of three misdemeanor counts of copyright infringement related to his use of a camcorder to covertly record films being shown in movie theaters. Gasca was also found guilty of felony counts of false use of a social security number, making extortionate threats, witness retaliation and escape.
Gasca was arrested by state authorities in September 2002 after being ejected from a private screening of “The Core” while carrying a black leather bag containing expensive recording equipment. The jury that convicted Gasca heard evidence that Gasca was in possession of remote zoom and monitor devices, an infrared sound receiver and a black sweatshirt with a special hole designed to surround the lens of his camcorder.
A federal search warrant executed at Gasca’s Hollywood residence in March 2003 resulted in the seizure of video duplication equipment, a false Social Security card and two diaries in which Gasca detailed making as much as $4,500 per week selling pirated pre-release versions of movies. Gasca was indicted by a federal grand jury in April 2003 and he was jailed.
After being temporarily released to prepare for trial, Gasca fled from the custody of his lawyer. He was a fugitive for 16 months until the United States Marshals Service apprehended him in Kissimmee, Florida, in April 2005.
At trial, the government presented evidence that Gasca used someone else’s Social Security Number to re-establish residential telephone service after it had been disconnected for nonpayment.
The jury also heard evidence that Gasca threatened a witness in the case, telling her that she could be shot because she had provided information to the FBI.
Other evidence presented at trial showed that Gasca communicated threats to investigators with the Motion Picture Association of America. On the day federal agents executed the search warrant at his residence and seized his equipment, Gasca demanded that the MPAA help obtain the return of his gear or else he would, “with one phone call,” flood the public with up to 20 pre-released films and “laugh all the way to jail” doing it.
“Because intellectual property is one of the engines that drives the American economy, and the entertainment industry helps propel the local economy, protecting intellectual property is of significant importance,” said Acting United States Attorney George S. Cardona. “Congress recognized that importance last year, after Mr. Gasca illegally recorded the films in this case, when it made the crime of camcording a movie a felony with penalties of up to three years in prison.”
J. Stephen Tidwell, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, remarked: “This sentence marks the conclusion of a lengthy investigation and trial involving charges of copyright infringement, witness intimidation and escape. The defendant remained a fugitive for 15 months after being charged, and his misguided efforts to evade punishment for his crimes has finally come to an end.
This case was the result of an investigation by the Cyber Crimes Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Los Angeles.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Elena Duarte
Chief, Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section
Release No. 06-164