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State funded piracy operation uncovered

Inside West Virginia's gold-domed Capitol, somebody has transformed a tucked-away basement office into a makeshift, taxpayer-funded studio to create pirate DVD videos and music CDs.

Administration Secretary Robert Ferguson said his staff stumbled across the office after finding evidence that purchase cards issued to his General Services Division were used to buy more than $88,000 worth of computers and related gear over the last three years. The division cannot account for some of the items.

Ferguson said the secret studio, which was found off a corridor near a boiler room, has prompted the involvement of the FBI, which has seized some of the hardware.

In a 5 January memo obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act, Chief Technology Officer Kyle Schafer said the office contained hundreds of blank DVDs, CDs and jacket covers as well as numerous recorders for both mediums and more than one computer.

"Specifically, one hard drive contained approximately 40 full-length motion videos," Schafer wrote. "Two other hard drives contained over 3,500 MP3 music files consuming more than 14 (gigabytes) of hard drive space."

Officials said the movies were theatrical releases but they didn't give titles.The computers were purchased piecemeal to keep invoices below $1,000 and avoid red flags raised by purchasing system rules, Schafer found. (Source: Daily Press, Virginia).

Story filed 22.01.06

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