Twelve "Operation Bandwidth" Software Pirates Enter into Group Guilty Plea
Las Vegas, Nev. - United States Attorney Daniel G. Bogden announces that 11defendants pleaded guilty today before United States District Court Judge James C. Mahan to charges that they were members of a computer software piracy group known as the "Rogue Warriorz" (RWZ), a secretive underground organization which illegally altered and distributed copyrighted software, movies, and games over the Internet. A twelfth defendant has signed a guilty plea agreement and is scheduled to plead guilty tomorrow morning. The defendants were among 21 persons indicted on June 11, 2002, as part of "Operation Bandwidth,"a two-year covert investigation to identify and prosecute entities and individuals involved with illegal access to computer systems and the piracy of proprietary software utilizing storage sites on the Internet.
The defendants entered into a "group plea" to Conspiracy (to commit copyright infringement), and have agreed to pay full restitution to the victims of their offense and fully cooperate with the government in the investigation and prosecution of other persons. The defendants have also agreed to surrender the unlawfully-obtained copyrighted works and all of the computer equipment they used to commit these offenses.
According to the court record, RWZ, founded in 1997, was dedicated to the illegal reproduction and distribution of copyrighted software, movies, and games over the Internet. Members of RWZ had various titles and served specialized roles. Those seeking membership were required to submit applications and were subject to a probationary period. Members communicated with each other on an Internet Relay Chat ("IRC") and web page, both accessible only to members with the password. The web page contained "achievement" statistics for those who maintained and moved the greatest amount of illegal copyright-protected programs.
RWZ members set up File Transfer Protocol (FTP) sites on the Internet which were accessible only to authorized users. The sites served as online warehouses for the pirated computer software, movies, and games.
Operation Bandwidth, an undercover law enforcement operation, created the Shatnet FTP site, which was physically located in Las Vegas and controlled and monitored by law enforcement agents as a means of attracting targets involved with the distribution of the pirated software. Operation Bandwidth was managed and coordinated by the Department of Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General (EPA-OIG), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Nevada. Thousands of unlawfully copyrighted computer software programs, movies, and games were available for downloading on the Shatnet site, including operating systems; utilities; applications such as word processing programs, data analysis programs, spreadsheets, communications programs, graphics, desktop publishing programs; games; and movies.
During the 180-day period ending on or about November 1, 2001, the copyrighted programs, games and movies uploaded to the Shatnet site included, among others: Audiowriter v 1.4, Informix Internet Foundation, Microsoft Windows XP Professional, Roxio Easy CD Creator, Adobe Page Maker, Flight Downunder 2002, NFL Gameday 2002, Kevin Sheedys AFL Coach 2002, Legally Blonde, Zoolander, American Pie 2. The total retail value of the software available for downloading on the Shatnet site in November 2001 exceeded $1,000,000.
"Criminal infringement of a copyright is a very serious offense," said U.S. Attorney Bogden. "This case makes it clear that the free online distribution of pirated software, games, movies and music is not a victimless crime. These crimes not only harm the manufacturers and distributors of the products, but they harm the general public because of the higher costs that consumers are eventually forced to absorb. Our office intends to aggressively pursue individuals who engage in such conduct."
- Those pleading guilty today to Conspiracy to Commit Copyright Infringement are:
- WOLF BACHENOR, age 52, of Park Slope, New York;
- DAVID BRANDT, age 36, of Wake Village, Texas;
- ALEXANDER CASTANEDA, age 21, of Federal Way, Washington;
- JACOB PAUL CLAPPTON, age 30, of Livermore, California;
- JONATHAN DOW, age 35, of Ilion, New York;
- JORGE GARCIA, JR., age 30, of Reddick Florida;
- MARK KONARSKE, age 42, of Flat Rock, Minnesota;
- TIMOTHY J. LASTORIA, age 25, of Brecksville, Ohio;
- CHRISTOPHER MASTRANGELO, age 32, of Toms River, New Jersey;
- SUZANNE PEACE, age 38, of Lombard, Illinois;
- ELISA SARINO, age 28, of San Jose, California
- DAVID LOWE, age 42, of Akron, Ohio, is scheduled for a plea hearing at 9:30 a.m. on December 19, 2003. The above defendants are scheduled for sentencing on March 23 and March 24, 2004, before United States District Court Judge James C. Mahan. They are each facing a statutory maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence will be dictated by the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of factors, and will be imposed at the discretion of the Court.
In regard to the other co-defendants, BRYAN RAY HARSHMAN, JEFFREY SASSER, PETER SEMADENI, and DEAN WUESTENBERG are currently scheduled for trial in Las Vegas on February 17, 2004, before United States District Court Judge James C. Mahan.
The following co-defendants previously pleaded guilty to felony charges arising from the same indictment: JOHN J. AMOROSI, age 23, of Falls Church, Virginia, scheduled for sentencing on January 12, 2004; LUKASZ DOUPAL, age 25 of Brooklyn, New York, sentenced on April 7, 2003; LINDLE ROMERO, aka "Rahman", age 38 of Houston, Texas, scheduled for sentencing on March 15, 2004. Defendant MICHAEL MEACHAM is now deceased; and defendant JOSEPH YANO, aka "Jozef", age 35 of Saskatoon, SA is being prosecuted in Canada.
Internet-related crime should be reported to appropriate law enforcement investigative authorities at the local, state, federal, or international levels, depending on the scope of the crime. Citizens who are aware of federal crimes should report them to local offices of federal law enforcement. Some federal law enforcement agencies that investigate domestic crime on the Internet include: the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), www.fbi.gov, the United States Secret Service, www.ustreas.gov/usss/index.shtml, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, www.ice.gov/graphics/index.htm, the United States Postal Inspection Service, www.usps.com/postalinspectors/, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), www.atf.treas.gov. Each of these agencies has offices conveniently located in every state to which crimes may be reported. Contact information regarding these local offices may be found in local telephone directories or on the above websites. Additional information on the investigation of cybercrime can be found at www.cybercrime.gov.
U.S. Attorney Bogden credits Special Agents with the Department of Defense Criminal Investigation Service, the EPA Office of Inspector General, the FBI, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with conducting the undercover investigation and developing the cases against these defendants. The government is represented in the prosecution by Assistant United States Attorney Matt Parrella.