WASHINGTON – A third member of the Internet piracy group “IMAGiNE” was sentenced today to 40 months in prison, and a fifth member of IMAGiNE pleaded guilty today for his role in the conspiracy, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for the Eastern District of Virginia and Special Agent in Charge John P. Torres of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) in Washington, D.C.
Gregory A. Cherwonik, 53, of Canandaigua, N.Y., was sentenced today by Senior U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in the Eastern District of Virginia. In addition to his prison term, Cherwonik was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution. Cherwonik pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement on July 11, 2012.
Javier E. Ferrer, 41, of New Port Richey, Fla., pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement before U.S. District Judge Henry C. Morgan Jr. in the Eastern District of Virginia. At sentencing, scheduled for March 14, 2013, Ferrer faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Cherwonik was indicted along with three other defendants on April 18, 2012, for their roles in the IMAGiNE Group, an organized online piracy ring that sought to become the premier group to first release Internet copies of movies only showing in theaters. Ferrer was charged in an information on Sept. 13, 2012, for his role in the IMAGiNE Group.
According to court documents, Cherwonik, Ferrer and their co-conspirators sought to illegally obtain and disseminate digital copies of copyrighted motion pictures showing in theaters. Cherwonik admitted to ordering a receiver to be used to capture the audio sound tracks of copyrighted movies (referred to as “capping”). Cherwonik wrote the computer code for the IMAGiNE Group’s website. He also worked with another IMAGiNE Group leader to establish a PayPal account for donations made to support the site and to create the new website, which was hosted on a computer server in France. Ferrer admitted he secretly used a video camera to film copyrighted motion pictures in movie theatres. He then used software to synchronize an audio file with his illegally obtained video of the movie to create a completed movie file suitable for sharing over the Internet. According to testimony by a representative of the Motion Picture Association of America, the IMAGiNE Group constituted the most prolific motion picture piracy release group operating on the Internet from September 2009 through September 2011.
Co-defendants Sean M. Lovelady, Willie O. Lambert and Jeramiah B. Perkins each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement on May 9, June 22 and Aug. 29, 2012, respectively. Lambert and Lovelady were sentenced on Nov. 2, 2012, to 30 months and 23 months in prison, respectively. Perkins is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 3, 2013.
The investigation of the case and the arrests were conducted by agents with HSI. 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 (CCIPS) are prosecuting the case. Significant assistance was provided by the CCIPS Cyber Crime Lab and the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.
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 .
This investigation was supported by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington. The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public’s health and safety, the U.S. economy and our war fighters.