Kevin J. O’Connor, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that I-CHE LAI, also known as “doplgnger,” age 25, of Las Vegas, Nevada, waived indictment and pleaded guilty today before United States Magistrate Judge Donna F. Martinez in Hartford to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. LAI’s guilty plea is the latest resulting from an 18-month, multinational software piracy investigation known as “Operation Higher Education.”
“Stealing the intellectual property of others is no different from any other form of thievery,” said U.S. Attorney O’Connor. “It is a priority of this Office and the Department of Justice to protect the intellectual property rights of our nation’s inventors and creators, regardless of where the pirates are located.
In pleading guilty today, LAI admitted that, between September 2002 and April 2004, he was a participant in the “warez scene,” an underground online community comprised of individuals and organized groups who engage in the large scale reproduction, modification and distribution of copywrighted software over the internet. Specifically, LAI served as a site-administrator for several warez sites, including “Kalisto-drop,” “Firewire,” Optical Illusion,’ and “DOH.” As a site-administrator for these warez FTP servers, LAI assisted in the maintenance, and day-to-day operation of the warez site. Each server contained a library of copyright protected software, including movies, music, games and business software that was made available to the groups’ private membership for reproduction and further distribution.
On or about December 2003, LAI began supplying new entertainment software to the warez community. LAI arranged to purchase new computer games prior to their release to the public and then electronically repackaged the games to an acceptable format, which permitted him to upload the new games to a specific warez server. The games were usually available for download prior to their being available for sale at the retail market level. Once uploaded to the warez server, the pirated software was globally distributed by warez couriers, eventually becoming available for reproduction to thousands of individuals participating in the warez community.
In addition, LAI today admitted that he transferred more than 390 pirated software titles to various warez servers and downloaded more than 1,080 copyright protected software titles from various warez servers, knowing that his and his co-conspirators’ actions were unlawful.
“Operation Higher Education” is the largest component of the global law enforcement action known as “Operation Fastlink,” announced by the Department of Justice on April 22, 2004. Twelve nations participated in “Operation Higher Education.” The investigation has so far yielded searches and seizures of over 70 high-level targets that were conducted in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, the United States, as well as Great Britain and Northern Ireland. To date, 18 individuals have pleaded guilty as a result of “Operation Fastlink.” The investigation is ongoing.
LAI is scheduled to be sentenced by Chief United States District Judge Robert N. Chatigny on March 27, 2006, at which time he faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000.
“Operation Higher Education” was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New Haven office in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut and the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (“CCIPS”). Prosecuting the cases for the United States are Assistant United States Attorneys Maria Kahn and Edward Chang, and CCIPS Senior Trial Attorney Clement J. McGovern