RealTime IT News

Warez Warriors Wrapped Up by Feds

The Department of Justice's (DoJ) crackdown on large-scale piracy continued today with the indictments of eight individuals for criminal copyright infringement.

The defendants are accused of being major online distributors of illegal software, music, movies and games.

The indictments are the first resulting from the DoJ's Operations FastLink and Site Down, the two largest and most aggressive international enforcement actions against criminal organizations involved in the illegal online distribution of copyrighted material commonly known as the "warez scene."

"Today's charges strike at the top of the copyright piracy supply chain -- a technologically sophisticated, highly organized distribution network that provides most of the copyrighted software, movies, games, and music illegally distributed over the Internet," Acting Assistant Attorney General John C. Richter said in a statement.

Operations FastLink and Site Down resulted in a total of more than 200 search warrants executed in 15 countries. The sweeps confiscated hundreds of computers and illegal online distribution hubs.

According to the DoJ, the busts netted more than $100 million worth of illegally copied materials.

Charged with criminal copyright infringement Thursday in Charlotte, N.C., were David Lee Pruett, 34, of Auburn, Wash.; Alexander C. Von Eremeef, 30, of Belmont, Mass.; George C. Stoutenburgh, 48, of Bennet, Colo.; and Jerry M. Melvin, Jr., 24, of Roanoke, Va.

Charged with conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement were David Chen Pui, 26, of Fountain Valley, Calif.; Shawn W. Laemmrich, 30, of Calumet, Mich.; Scott John Walls, 45, of Spokane, Wash.; and Franklin Edward Littell, 48, of Martinsville, Ind.

All were affiliated with organized warez groups that acted as first providers of copyrighted works to the Internet. In many cases, these release groups are the original source pirated works that eventually spread across the Internet.

Warez groups also supply the for-profit criminal distribution networks since illegal warez copies of software or movies are easily and cheaply converted to optical discs and distributed throughout the world from factories in Asia and elsewhere.

"This investigation illustrates the FBI's ability to conduct sophisticated and complex technical investigations, where those committing the cyber crimes can be identified and located anywhere in the world," said Charlotte FBI Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Robert F. Clifford.