CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A California man has been sentenced to one year in prison today by Judge Frank D. Whitney for his involvement in an Internet software piracy ring, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the U.S. Department of Justice's Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Gretchen C. F. Shappert of the Western District of North Carolina announced today.
Houtan Yaghmai, of Palm Springs, Calif., was indicted in April 2006 as part of Operation FastLink, the largest and most successful federal crackdown against international Internet piracy to date. This operation resulted in more than 120 search warrants and arrests in 12 countries; the confiscation of hundreds of computers and illegal online distribution hubs; and the removal of more than $50 million worth of illegally-copied copyrighted software, games, movies, and music from illicit distribution channels. To date, 52 defendants have been convicted of felony copyright infringement offenses as a result of this Department of Justice anti-piracy initiative.
Yaghmai was known as a courier in the illegal software, game, movie, and music trade known as the "warez" scene. Yaghmai illegally obtained copyrighted software, games, movies, and music and provided the pirated material to the other members of a private underground group. The private underground group maintained a computer site, permitting members to upload and download the site's contents, which consisted of thousands of pirated works. Yaghmai himself enjoyed access to the entire online library of copyrighted works.
Such warez distribution sites ultimately supply the for-profit criminal distribution networks that cost the copyright industry billions of dollars each year. Although pirated software titles are initially distributed only to a closed group, the titles quickly filter down to commercial distribution sites and peer-to-peer networks within hours. Illegal warez copies of software or movies are then easily and cheaply converted to optical discs and distributed throughout the world. Spammers regularly advertise cheap software that can be downloaded from websites or shipped from overseas, usually bearing the signature mark of the warez group that released it.
This case was investigated by Special Agents of the FBI's Charlotte Division. It is being prosecuted by Richard Green and John Zacharia, Trial Attorneys for the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey Ellis of the Western District of North Carolina.