WASHINGTON – Four individuals have been charged in the Eastern District of Virginia for their alleged roles in an Internet piracy group that distributed via the Internet copies of movies showing only in theaters, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil H. MacBride and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton announced today.
An indictment returned on April 18, 2012, and unsealed yesterday charges Jeramiah Perkins, 39, of Portsmouth, Va.; Gregory Cherwonik, 53, of New York; Willie Lambert, 57, of Pennsylvania; and Sean Lovelady, 27, of California; with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and two counts of criminal copyright infringement. Perkins, Cherwonik and Lambert are charged with two additional counts of criminal copyright infringement, and Perkins and Cherwonik are charged with a sixth count of criminal copyright infringement of a work being prepared for commercial distribution.
Perkins, Cherwonik and Lambert were arrested yesterday and Lovelady reported to authorities today. The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on May 9, 2012.
“These four defendants are charged with serious intellectual property crimes,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Through IMAGiNE, they allegedly sought to become the leading source of pirated movies on the Internet. This Justice Department, working with our partners at ICE, has made fighting intellectual property crime a top priority, and we will continue to bring cases against individuals and entities devoted to cheating consumers and undermining artistic pursuits.”
“Piracy is outright theft, regardless of the technology or business model used,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Large-scale copyright infringement is a serious crime that hurts not only those in the entertainment industry but also those who legally pay for that entertainment.”
“The indictment in this case demonstrates ICE Homeland Security Investigations’ commitment to identifying and dismantling pirates that are weakening our economy through their illegal acts,” said ICE Director Morton. “Criminals engaged in piracy are stealing from the 2.4 million Americans employed by the entertainment industry. ICE, along with our partners at the Justice Department, will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute cases involving piracy and counterfeiting.”
According to the indictment, the defendants and their co-conspirators identified themselves as the IMAGiNE Group and sought to become the premier group to first release Internet copies of new movies only showing in theaters. From September 2009 until September 2011, they allegedly reproduced and distributed over the Internet tens of thousands of illegal copies of copyrighted works. The indictment charges that the group regularly and illicitly obtained copies of the video and audio components of motion pictures showing in theaters and then edited and combined them into one infringing movie file, which thousands of members of the group shared with one another by use of BitTorrent file sharing technology and then released to the Internet.
The indictment alleges that the IMAGiNE Group rented computer servers to host websites that included member profiles, a server called a torrent tracker that assists in communications among members using BitTorrent file sharing technology, discussion forums, a message board and news, rules and other information about making donations to and using the website.
The maximum prison sentence for the charge of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and for each count of criminal copyright infringement is five years in prison.
Charges contained in an indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The investigation of the case and the arrests were conducted by agents with ICE Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Krask of the Eastern District of Virginia and Senior Counsel John H. Zacharia of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
This case is part of efforts being undertaken by the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force) to stop the theft of intellectual property. Attorney General Eric Holder created the IP Task Force to combat the growing number of domestic and international intellectual property crimes, protect the health and safety of American consumers, and safeguard the nation’s economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work. The IP Task Force seeks to strengthen intellectual property rights protection through heightened criminal and civil enforcement, greater coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and increased focus on international enforcement efforts, including reinforcing relationships with key foreign partners and U.S. industry leaders. To learn more about the IP Task Force, go to www.justice.gov/dag/iptaskforce.