VALENCIA, Calif. - One of the largest DVD replicators in the adult video business is pressing on, after more than 50 of its employees were arrested on charges of identity theft.
The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Department raided L & M Optical West on Thursday morning, Feb. 5, rounding up 55 employees at the company's Valencia plant. The bust targeted alleged illegal immigrants believed to be working for L & M under stolen Social Security numbers, forged green cards, and other false papers.
"The police showed up around 9 in the morning and stayed until after 6:30, because they wanted to catch people coming in for the night shift," an L & M Optical representative told AVN. "I don't know how many were arrested, because they scattered...By the time the night shift started, no one showed up."
The company rep told AVN that L & M Optical and its owners have been cleared in the investigation surrounding the arrests.
"The numbers didn't match the [employee] names, but we didn't know," he said. "We had two forms of ID plus Social Security numbers from every employee, and we took the extra step of sending all the documentation to an agency for verification, so we did our part. There's no exposure for us, no liability."
According to the Santa Clarita Signal, the three-month investigation leading to the arrests began after the Social Security Administration alerted 19 local residents to the misuse of their identification numbers. Over a two-year period, the victims had received notice of overdue federal taxes on unreported income they didn't earn.
A bail bondsman involved in the case told the paper that the suspects most likely acquired fake Social Security IDs and other papers from "forgery shops" in Los Angeles.
"The people came here to work. They are not criminals," a relative of one suspect told the Signal.
Prosecutors charged 54 of those arrested with various combinations of identity theft, false personation and false documentation, and 44 pleaded not guilty. Charges against one suspect were dropped on a technicality; a hearing in the case is scheduled for Feb. 19.
L & M was cleared in a separate legal matter stemming from the raid, in which police confiscated DVD copies of the Gus van Sant movie Milk. According to L & M's rep, the Motion Picture Association of America was ordered to pay for return delivery of the discs after a court found that the job was legit, and not a run of pirated DVDs.
"We have a letter from Universal stating that the job is authorized," he said. "The merchandise has already been shipped back to us."
L & M replicates DVDs for many of the major manufacturers in the adult industry.
"We're still running, and we're hiring people as fast as we can," the company representative told AVN. "We've even had some people from friendly competitors come to work here while we get our operations back on track. Obviously, production has slowed, but we should be back up to speed within two or three weeks."