- Thursday, Apr. 21, 2016
- LAS VEGAS
While the NAB confab is known for introducing breakthrough innovations and technologies to the marketplace, a session at this week’s event addressed the often overlooked yet still vital issue of properly protecting such valuable equipment from theft and fraud.
During its annual general membership meeting on Tuesday (4/19) at NAB in Las Vegas, the Production Equipment Rental Group (PERG) honored two New York police detectives--Martin Pastor and Anthony Diaz--who have recovered more than $700,000 worth of stolen industry equipment over the past nine months. Pastor and Diaz have traveled to California, Florida, Spain, France and Argentina to track down leads and raise law enforcement community awareness of these crimes, serving notice that the perpetrators responsible will be sought out.
The law enforcement officers’ efforts were facilitated in part by Rental Guard, a website which serves as a hub to share information about stolen equipment, the intent being to recover that equipment or better yet to help prevent or at least curtail such thefts by also providing intelligence about alleged active criminals, their fraudulent practices and modus operandi. Rental Guard was launched by two organizations: PERG in North America, and the Association of Studio and Production Equipment Companies (ASPEC) in the U.K. Rental Guard provides a theft alert and reporting system which are freely available to anyone. In addition an alert system about questionable customers and a new customer inquiry networking capability are provided for PERG rental house members.iu
Presenting the award to detectives Pastor and Diaz for their dedication to combating fraud and theft in the motion picture and TV production industry were Litegear’s Paul Royalty who is PERG Council chair, and David Wells of Moving Picture Rental.
Wells in his introductory remarks recalled one morning last August getting “a call from a guy who says he is an NYPD detective on the major case squad. He says, in this thick New York accent, ‘Hey Dave, I’m in Madrid, Spain, recovering some master primes and you may have some information I need.’ I ask, ‘How are you going to recover the lenses, you don’t have any jurisdiction there?’ He says, ‘I’m just going to knock on the perp’s door and ask for them.’ Detective Martin Pastor calls back the next day. ‘Hey Dave, I got the lenses!” At this point I am thinking this guy’s incredible. God’s gift to the rental industry.”
For the PERG gathering at NAB, the detectives screened a video captured by security cameras on a New York City street. Recorded were two men following a rented truck full of equipment. When the PA parked the truck and left it, the two men checked the parking receipt on the vehicle to see how much time had been bought on the parking meter. Then in broad daylight on a busy sidewalk with people going about their business and tourists snapping pictures, the two men broke into the truck, unloaded its contents into their van, closed up the truck and put the lift gate back into place before taking off. Detective Diaz narrated the video clip for the PERG audience. He and Pastor later were able to track down and arrest the thieves, one of whom was responsible for nearly 30 similar truck robberies in NYC. With information gained from that arrest, detectives Diaz and Pastor traveled to Argentina to question the person who had bought the stolen goods. The next time that suspect sets foot in the U.S., the FBI will notify the NYPD.
Based on info from Rental Guard, detectives Pastor and Diaz also took action when stolen equipment resurfaced for sale. Thanks to their work, Duclos and West Coast Cine were able to recover a set of master primes that were stolen in March from FoxTelecolombia in Bogota. Later the detectives investigated when a lens brought to The Camera House by an equipment dealer to sell to a third party turned out to be stolen. The detectives worked with the companies involved, yielding a successful recovery of the equipment.
The detectives are credited with developing paid informants who have helped identify not only perpetrators who are behind assorted thefts but also people who trade in stolen equipment. Prior to the PERG ceremony on Tuesday, Pastor had suggested to the trade association that it might consider establishing a tip fund that law enforcement could tap into when it has an informant who will disclose important information. PERG looked into that possibility and developed a strategy for administering such a fund. At the PERG event at NAB, the audience was asked to help seed the tip fund and Litegear’s Royalty put up the first $100 to get the fund started. Within 10 minutes PERG had processed $2,000 in credit card payments from attendees. Law enforcement, anywhere in the U.S., can apply to the tip fund.
PERG’s awards to Pastor and Diaz at NAB also recognized their efforts in persuading local law enforcement officials to get involved in cases. Otherwise, PERG noted that no action would have been taken against these particular crimes.
Furthermore, the two detectives went to Miami in January to participate in a luncheon event organized by Wells in order to help network with four police agencies--in the city of Ford Lauderdale, Miami, Davey, and Hollywood, Fla., all municipalities that have suffered rental house losses.
Detective Martin assisted PERG in its push to increase theft awareness among production companies and rental houses by participating in forums like the one held by Taylor and Taylor last year at Able Cine Tech in association with the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP)/PERG Oktoberfest event.
And the two detectives attended NAB--with the blessing of NYPD and partially funded by PERG--not only to receive the PERG award but also to make contacts with rental companies and equipment manufacturers in order to learn more about the equipment rental business.
Wells affirmed, “The message to the brokers and to the thieves is that the NYPD will hunt you down across continents, you may be arrested, serve jail time, and/or lose a lot of money. The head is being cut off of the market makers because of these fine detectives.”
The PERG general membership meeting was attended by more than 165 people representing rental companies from all over the country as well as Canada and Europe. The event also featured a panel discussion in which two drone operators spoke about liability and certification, Anthony Carmean (Aerial Mob) and Derek Hammer (Camera Bee).
PERG proceedings also included a hazardous materials expert from the FAA, Michael Givens, who Web-exed into the meeting projected on two large screens. He showed videos from FAA tests of catastrophic effects of thermal runaway in lithium-ion batteries and the resulting explosion and fire. Representatives from Anton Bauer (product engineer Bill Flynn) and Panavision (COO Mark Howorth) also spoke about the new regulations concerning shipping lithium-ion batteries and what rental houses and production companies need to do to comply with them.