North Carolina Man and His Company Sentenced for Manufacturing and Selling Fake Mercedes-Benz Diagnostic Software
U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite announced that ROBERT BECKMANN, age 54, of Durham, North Carolina, and his company, BECKMANN TECHNOLOGIES, INC. (BTI), were each sentenced today.
U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt sentenced BECKMANN to four years of probation, with the first four months to be served on home detention, and fine $5,000 after previously pleading guilty to criminal copyright infringement. BTI was sentenced to five years of organization probation and fined $75,000 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and to violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
According to court documents, BECKMANN owned BECKMANN TECHNOLOGIES, INC. a company that, among other things, sold remanufactured parts for Mercedes-Benz automobiles. Between about 2001 and July 2012, BECKMANN TECHNOLOGIES, INC., in conjunction with “Company A,” located in Harahan, Louisiana, “Company B,” located in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, and an individual in the United Kingdom, “J.C.,” produced and sold unauthorized, non-authentic versions of the Mercedes-Benz Star Diagnostic System (SDS), a hand-held computer containing proprietary, confidential software. The SDS is used by mechanics to diagnose problems with and assure the safety of Mercedes-Benz vehicles employing electronic control systems.
BECKMANN TECHNOLOGIES, INC. was responsible for creating hardware for the fake SDS units, including a “black box,” while Company A, with assistance from BECKMANN TECHNOLOGIES, INC., and others obtained, modified, and duplicated the authentic SDS software so that it would operate on ordinary laptop computers and without Mercedes-Benz’s authorization or license. After learning that Mercedes-Benz had notified J.C. that his conduct was in violation of civil and/or criminal laws, representatives of BECKMANN TECHNOLOGIES, INC., Company A, and Company B discussed a plan to have J.C. “go underground and off the radar” and continue working on making fake SDS.
The “real” SDS sold for between $8,300 and $22,000 each, while the fake SDS sold for up to $11,000, depending on market factors. In total, Company A and Company B sold at least 795 fake SDS. BECKMANN plead guilty to selling and distributing once such device; BECKMANN TECHNOLOGIES, INC. was charged with its role in the development, manufacture, and distribution of the fake SDS.
U.S. Attorney Polite praised the work of the Cyber Task Force of the FBI’s New Orleans Division in investigating this matter. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jordan Ginsberg and Senior Counsel Evan Williams of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) were in charge of the prosecution.