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The Porn Store Rivalry Involving Arson, Assassination Plots, and a One-Eyed 'Outlaw'

A former Dead Head and bike gang member who went by the name "Mau Mau" blew up a porn shop at the center of a new lawsuit.
March 31, 2016, 7:30pm
Not the fire at the center of a beef between adult store owners in Washington. Photo by Aylin Saglam/EyeEm/Getty Images

It probably wasn't even the first time Mark Fuston got hired to blow up a porn store.

In 2003, the one-eyed giant disconnected the propane hose on a construction site in Vancouver, Washington, and redirected it into a nascent shop called Desire Video. Then he placed an incendiary device in the corner of the building. Finally, he went back to the car of a co-conspirator and hit the trigger on a remote-controlled bomb.

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To their mutual frustration, it didn't take.

As you might expect from a man who once got arrested for allegedly breaking a woman's wrist over 15 bucks and charged with fatally shooting a guy over a $180 drug debt, Fuston was determined to have his payday. With the cash on the line, he did what he had to do, laying down a fuel trail to the building and lighting it on fire.

"This was definitely not a case of unrestrained moral outrage or some misguided attempt to protect the community from pornography or the social ills that can be connected to that industry," a federal prosecutor later argued in court. "Rather, Mark Fuston's singular goal was to get paid."

A former Dead Head and bike-gang member who also went by "Mau Mau," Fulton was eventually sentenced to two and a half years for the March 27, 2003, fire. But a new federal lawsuit spells out the insane details of what is surely the most bizarre erotic business rivalry of all time.

Police apparently suspected pretty quickly that Desire Video had fallen victim to arson, so they deployed undercovers. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) investigators knew the store was within a mile of another porn shop, Adult Video Only, and according to the suit, they rented an apartment in the complex where an employee named Ken Courtney lived. In the course of the investigation, they found out that Courtney—who committed suicide before the case went to trial—built the defective bomb.

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For his part, Fuston had been wrapped up in porn mayhem before: In 1977, the career criminal was charged with trying to burn down an adult bookstore, but got off even though cops found him holding a gas can and matches at the scene. And in 1991, a man who looked an awful lot like Fuston was spotted near a Portland porn store just before it burst into flames, courtesy of a pipe bomb.

The burned Vancouver shop was eventually rebuilt and opened under the name Taboo Video, and the new suit alleges that the owners of Adult Video Only were so desperate to shake suspicion that they put a "For Sale" sign in their window. When Levi Bussanich, the owner of Taboo and the man behind the suit, took the bait and came over for a tour, the suit claims he was shown several video arcades––places where customers could insert cash and watch porn inside the store.

He was allegedly told that the machines weren't tracked by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which suggested the store was worth more than was on paper. According to the suit, this no mere marketing strategy—it was a trust-building exercise designed to cover up the fact that the owners of Adult Video Only had committed the arson.

Recordings obtained by investigators suggest the rivalry didn't end with the one arson: Fuston and Courtney discussed throwing a grenade into what had been Desire Video once it got rebuilt, with scant regard for the customers who would presumably have been inside. They also spoke about assassinating someone for $10,000, although the hit never took place.

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The civil complaint alleges that the money used to pay for the arson came from weed sales and money from the illicit arcade machines.

The people who allegedly paid Fuston to light the fire were never charged with any crimes, apparently because of a statute of limitations issue. But Bussanich is suing them for civil damages, claiming violations under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which is typically used to go after mob bosses.

Meanwhile, Adult Video Only is still up and running in Vancouver. Its website states that it plans to add a smoking room soon, and suggests that it will be BYOB (in weed-legal Washington, this apparently means "bring your own bud.")

"When you are ready to spice up your sex life come in and visit us," the site reads. "Our friendly staff will be glad to assist you in finding that perfect toy or gift."

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