Story of the Day Replay: Sami and Michael Harb Ordered to Prison for Selling Obscene Movies

According to the federal indictment, the Harb’s went down on the films “MaxHardcore, Pure Max 18,” “MaxHardcore, Extreme 12,” and “Extreme Associates, Cocktails 5”

from – Two cousins from Ohio received matching sentences in federal court Thursday for distributing an adult film that government officials deemed obscene.

Sami Harb, 44, and Michael Harb, 36, were indicted in June 2003 on three counts of engaging in a business of selling or transferring obscene material and three counts of mailing obscene material. The charges were tied to three films that were described in court documents as “sadistic and masochistic” and came after an investigation by the FBI’s Obscenity Task Force and the U.S. attorney’s offices in Cleveland and Salt Lake City.

Both men pleaded guilty to one count of selling or transferring obscene material and were sentenced to one year and one day in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. The other charges were dropped in a plea agreement.

The pair also agreed to forfeit interests in the films along with assets gained from sales and distribution. The forfeitures were all but moot as the adult film company they co-owned, Movies by Mail, failed and the two anticipate filing bankruptcy.

Defense attorneys described the Harbs in court as hard-working, devoted family men and pillars in their community who made charitable donations. They asked the judge to order probation or home confinement because Sami Harb’s wife suffers from a serious heart condition and Michael Harb’s 5-year-old daughter has cancer.

Federal prosecutor Karin Fojtik did not dispute the depiction of the cousins, but said she couldn’t reconcile that with their decision to go into the “risky” adult film industry and distribute videos that were “degrading, depraved, with no humanity to them whatsoever.”

The Harbs did not play a role in producing the films, but the judge said they failed in their responsibility to ensure those with obscene content were not distributed.

They will most likely serve their time in a minimum-security facility near their homes in Cleveland.

from – Two cousins from Ohio who shipped hard-core pornographic movies to Utah were each sentenced Thursday to a year and a day in federal prison.

Sami Harb, 44, and Michael Harb, 35, who operated the now-defunct Cleveland-based Movies by Mail, had each pleaded guilty to one count of selling obscene material.

U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman has called the films violent and extreme and lacking artistic value.

The Harbs faced up to five years in prison. Sentencing guidelines called for 15 to 21 months.

In court documents, defense attorneys Jerry Mooney and Paul Cambria pleaded for home confinement. They characterized the Harbs as hard-working men with families who depend upon them. Sami Harb’s wife suffers from a heart condition and Michael Harb’s 5-year-old daughter has cancer.

U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart sentenced them to 366 days, followed by three years supervised release.

The investigation began in 2006 when the FBI’s Adult Obscenity Task Force in Washington, D.C., got a tip about Movies by Mail, and agents say they were able to buy obscene DVDs on the company’s Web site. In March, a Salt Lake City agent placed an online order and three of the movies – “Max Hardcore: Pure Max 18,” “Max Hardcore: Extreme 12” and “Extreme Associates: Cocktails 5” – were deemed to be obscene.

“None of the three films has a plot line,” an FBI investigator wrote in a statement detailing the charge. “The films consist entirely of scenes
of hard-core sexual acts being performed by multiple men and women.”

Postal records show that Movies by Mail sent 683 packages in 2006 to Utah, 149 of them to Salt Lake City and the rest around the state, according to the complaint.

The Harbs had no role in producing the movies.

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