American DVD counterfeiter deported to L.A.

China has deported an American sentenced to 30 months in a Shanghai jail for selling hundreds of thousands of pirated DVDs on the Internet.

Randolph Hobson Guthrie, 38, was flown Friday to L.A., where he was arrested by U.S. Customs officials.

Guthrie’s conviction was not without irony in a market with the world’s most rampant DVD piracy, where fake discs are openly sold in shops all over the country.

What singles this case out is the fact that Guthrie moved the merchandise abroad to more than 20 countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Australia, whereas most fake DVDs are circulated in China.

He was arrested in July 2004 in Shanghai along with Abram Cody Thrush and Chinese accomplices Wu Dong and Wu Shibiao.

Guthrie was jailed in April by Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court and fined yuen 500,000 ($62,000); Thrush and the Wus were given terms ranging up to 15 months and fines between $1,200 and $3,500.

Chinese authorities had announced that Guthrie and Thrush would be deported at the end of their sentences. It appears China opted to deport them earlier; Thrush was kicked out July 1, but authorities offered no explanation.

Guthrie hails from New York and lived in Shanghai for 10 years.

His business was built up largely on Web sales via eBay and a Russian site — a big part of his business was selling James Bond DVDs.

MGM’s lawyers picked up on the eBay ad and notified the Motion Picture Assn. of America, which contacted antipiracy authorities in Shanghai.

Police raided three storehouses around the city and seized 210,000 counterfeit DVDs.

Washington said about 70% of counterfeit products that enter the U.S. are from China, while piracy costs U.S. businesses about $250 billion a year in lost sales.

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