High Flying Software Pirate Grounded

Just how good is the business software black market?

Very, very lucrative, judging by the forfeitures agreed to by Danny Ferrer, a 37-year-old software piracy Internet operator from Lakeland, Fla.

Ferrer pleaded guilty Friday to one count of conspiracy and one count of criminal copyright infringement for selling pirated software.

According to U.S. Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher, Ferrer was “one of the largest commercial online distributors of pirated software in the United States.”

He faces up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000.

He also agreed to forfeit three airplanes, a helicopter, six cars, a flight simulator, a high performance boat and an ambulance.

The cars included a 1992 Lamborghini, a 2005 Hummer, a 2002 Chevrolet Corvette, two 2005 Chevrolet Corvettes and a 2005 Lincoln Navigator.

From late 2002 until its shutdown by the FBI on October 19, 2005, Ferrer and his co-conspirators operated the BUYSUSA.com site, which sold deeply discounted copies of software products from companies such as Adobe, Autodesk and Macromedia.

According to the Department of Justice (DoJ), the site sold almost $2.5 million worth of copyrighted software. The DoJ claims the sales resulted in losses of nearly $20 million to the owners of the underlying copyrighted products.

“Online pirates prey on honest businesspeople and cost them millions of dollars a year — a cost partly and inevitably borne by consumers,” U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg said in a statement. “The public should remember that offers that sound too good to be true typically are too good to be true.”

The pirated products purchased on the Web site were reproduced on compact discs and distributed through the mail. The operation included a serial number that allowed the purchaser to activate and use the product.

The FBI began investigating Ferrer’s operation last year. An undercover agent made a number of purchases of business and utility software from the site, which delivered the hot software by mail to Virginia.

Fisher said Ferrer’s conviction “sends a clear message to those who pirate software for profit that stealing at the expense of the hard work and creativity of legitimate rights-holders is a crime for which you will be prosecuted.”

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