HSI collars Chinese national in $100 million software copyright infringement case


In what Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations says is one of its most significant cases of copyright infringement, a Chinese national pled guilty this week to conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and wire fraud. According to an HSI press release, Xiang Li of China operated a website used to distribute more than $100 million worth of pirated software around the world.

HSI, the largest investigative arm of the Homeland Security Department, said Li was the operator of a website located at that advertised thousands of pirated software titles for a wide range of applications, including defense, engineering, manufacturing, space exploration, aerospace simulation and design, mathematics, and explosive simulation. Federal agents lured him to the island of Saipan, a U.S. territory in the Northern Mariana Islands, and arrested him in June 2011.

Through the Crack 99 website, Li distributed the pirated software to customers all over the world, including the United States, according to HSI. From April 2008 to June 2011, the agency said Li engaged in more than 500 transactions, in which he distributed approximately 550 different copyrighted software titles to at least 325 purchasers located in at least 28 states and more than 60 foreign countries.

According to HSI, more than a third of the unlawful purchases were made by individuals within the United States, including small business owners, government contractors, students, inventors and engineers. Some of Li's biggest U.S. customers held significant engineering positions with government agencies and government contractors.

Li sold 12 pirated software programs worth more than $1.2 million to Cosburn Wedderburn, who was then a NASA electronics engineer working at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md. He also sold 10 cracked software programs worth more than $600,000 to Dr. Wronald Best, who held the position of chief scientist at a Kentucky-based government contractor that services the U.S. and foreign militaries and law enforcement.

Both Wedderburn and Best have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and are awaiting sentencing in the District of Delaware, said HSI. Li will be sentenced May 3 in U.S. District Court and faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release following his prison sentence.

For more:
-read the ICE HSI press release

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