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An April Fool's prank Bieber fans will have to see to 'Believe'

Culture MonsterEntertainmentJustin BieberArtistsArts and CultureLos Angeles Police DepartmentParis Hilton

A street artist and electronic musician said Tuesday that he clandestinely removed Justin Bieber's "Believe" CD in stores across Los Angeles and replaced them with fakes as part of an elaborate April Fool's Day stunt.

The artist, who goes by the name PAZ and said his real name is Paz Dylan, said he replaced more than 5,000 copies of Bieber's CD, although that figure could not be verified Tuesday.

"By the time you read this, every Justin Bieber record in the city of Los Angeles has been replaced by a CD covered with cats and pizza slices. No joke," read the PAZ Facebook page Tuesday afternoon.

The CDs look authentic on the outside — with shrink-wrap, Bieber's face on the cover and the original "Believe" bar code, so they ring up at registers as the real thing. But inside Bieber fans will find a disc with music by PAZ, his independently released "From the Bottom of My Heart to the Top of Your Lungs." 

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The artist, who said he's 25 and from Orange County, said he and five assistants hit "all the big box stores," including Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy and Kmart, as well as the Hollywood music store Amoeba. The artist re-created the Bieber packaging in his studio, he said, then sneaked the CDS into the stores. He called it "reverse shoplifting, or droplifting."

The real Bieber CDs, he said, are hidden in the stores.

A Times reporter bought what appeared to be a Bieber CD at the Target store in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, opened the packaging and found the PAZ disc inside.

Amoeba store manager Kara Lane said only two "Believe" CDs were on the store's shelves Tuesday, one new and one used. When she opened the new one, she said, the real Bieber disc was inside. However the evening before, a clerk found about six unopened "Believe" CDs stacked on a counter in the back of the store — odd for a 2012 release.

"We wouldn't normally stock Justin Bieber's CDs in those quantities if it's not a new release," she said, adding that upon further checking, the discs in the back of the store were indeed the PAZ fakes.

A Target spokesman said the company was investigating the prank and had no further comment. Kmart also declined to comment. 

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Depending on how PAZ executed the stunt — whether any merchandise ever left the stores or got damaged when moved — his actions could be considered vandalism or burglary, Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman Nuria Vanegas said.

"It could be a misdemeanor or felony, and both could get him jail time," she said.

PAZ said he is not concerned. In 2011 the artist crashed Paris Hilton's 30th birthday party, stole a 70-pound red velvet cake and brought it to a Los Angeles soup kitchen.

"I think it's important to take risks for your art," he said, adding that he doesn't feel bad for any consumer — even a young one — who might have bought the prank CD.

"Those that want to enjoy it will enjoy it, and those who don't will make a speedy trip to customer service," he said. "It's not pornography."

deborah.vankin@latimes.com 

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