RealTime IT News

L.A. Cracks Internet Warez Ring

In the first criminal Internet file-sharing case brought in California, a 34-year-old former Los Angeles resident pleaded guilty over the weekend to single felony count of grand theft.

Jed Frederick Kobles faces up to three years in prison for running an Internet file-sharing hub for trading movies, TV shows, music and games. Kobles, who now lives in Las Vegas, pleaded guilty on the same day the felony charge was issued. He remains free on his own recognizance until his Oct. 20 sentencing.

According to the criminal complaint, Kobles and still unnamed co-conspirators made films, music videos and television shows available for sharing during a four-day period in January.

Films available for illegal downloading included "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," "National Treasure" and "A Beautiful Mind." The videos were all by Madonna while the sole television show as an episode of "The Simpsons."

According to the Los Angeles County High Tech Crimes Unit, an undercover investigator joined Kobles' hub and downloaded more than 14 movies, television shows and music videos in January.

The undercover investigation led to a search warrant being served on Kolbes s residence in Los Angeles on Feb. 25. L.A. Assistant District Attorney Jeff McGrath said Kobles was in caught in the act of downloading the Xbox game Leisure Suit Larry when the warrant was served.

In the overt acts listed in the complaint, L.A. officials claim Kobles, under the screen name Raging8, operated a hub called UTB Smokinghouse. To join the group, users had to have access to a large amount of material they were willing to share with other members of the hub.

Commonly known as "warez" groups, the networks operate as the original sources for the majority of pirated works distributed and downloaded on the Internet. The stolen works frequently eventually filter down to peer-to-peer (P2P) networks and other public file-sharing networks.

In addition to filtering down to P2P networks, warez groups often are the primary source for the for-profit criminal distribution networks of DVDs and CDs since the digital files can be easily converted to optical disks.

Because of advancements in the use of sophisticated electronics and the Internet by warez groups, McGrath said, "These are difficult cases that require a great deal of expertise to investigate and prosecute."