DECEMBER 7, 2002

Local News - A Kingston businessman who achieved celebrity because of a publicized legal battle with a big bank has been charged as part of a police crackdown on illegal satellite sales.

Joseph Murano, 45, faces three charges under the Radiocommunication Act and three charges under the Copyright Act after the Entertainment Today store at 183 Division St. was raided Monday by officers from the federal enforcement section of the Kingston RCMP office.

Using two search warrants, officers seized equipment that they say can be used to decode and steal American satellite TV signals. They also seized 300 imported toys that are knockoffs of the popular Beyblade spinning tops.

A Kingston woman, Marjorie Babcock, 42, faces the same six charges as Murano.

"They were present in the business at the time the search was conducted," said Kingston RCMP Sgt. Sandy Fraser. "It was quite clear that both of them were at least employees of the business and we believe Mr. Murano is the owner."

Tax records show that the property where Entertainment Today operated is owned by a numbered Ontario corporation but tax bills are forwarded to Joe Murano at a suburban address in Kingstonís west end.

Entertainment Today has a large advertisement in the Kingston Yellow Pages business directory advertising satellite systems. A photo in the advertisement appears to show a satellite dish bearing the DirecTV logo. It is an American direct-to-home satellite service that is illegal in Canada.

Joe Murano won $3.7 million in damages in 1995 in a civil lawsuit against the Bank of Montreal. The suit was launched because the bank demanded repayment of two loans and took possession in 1991 of three Bandito video stores that Murano operated.

Murano sued because bank officials talked to other creditors about the financial situation, causing Muranoís chain of stores to collapse.

An appeal decision released in 1998 upheld the original award but it was unclear if the bank would pursue further appeals.

Murano couldnít be reached yesterday to comment on his current legal troubles or his battle with the bank.

Fraser said itís unlikely there will be any more charges.

"The bulk of the investigation is complete," he said. The Mounties are on the lookout for other individuals and stores selling DirecTV systems and will pursue them, Fraser said.

Only two direct-to-home satellite services are legal in Canada, ExpressVu and Star Choice.

Murano and Babcock are scheduled to make their first appearances in court Jan. 7.