Authorities arrested a man Tuesday who is among eight Southlanders charged as part of a nationwide crackdown on creators of devices that allow users to watch satellite TV without paying, prosecutors said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Spertus said the sting, the first phase in an investigation dubbed Operation Decrypt, stems from what he estimates is the largest undercover investigation of satellite theft devices to take place in the United States.
Debra Yang, U.S. attorney for the district that includes Los Angeles, said the investigation netted 17 prominent individuals in the hacking community, a group suspected of causing millions of dollars in losses to companies such as Dish Network and El Segundo-based DirecTV.
To those who crack "smart card" and other access technology, the charges should send a message that "we've infiltrated your community, and we are committed" to fighting signal theft, Yang said.
Randyl Walter, a 43-year-old West Los Angeles resident arrested in the crackdown, pleaded guilty in December to manufacturing satellite signal decryption devices and admitted causing nearly $14.9 million in losses to satellite companies, according to prosecutors.
Thomas Emerick, 33, of Ontario, pleaded guilty in December to distributing decryption devices and reprogramming smart cards and admitted causing $70,000 in losses to satellite companies, Yang said.
Still faing charges are:
Edward Vanderziel, 35, of Ontario, who was indicted Jan. 23 on charges of conspiracy, manufacturing signal theft devices and violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
- Stephen Thornton, 36, of Redondo Beach, who has, according to authorities agreed to plead guilty to developing satellite signal theft devices by writing software to circumvent smart card technology. He is charged in a criminal information filed Tuesday, according to the FBI
- Robert Walton, 37, of Temple City. Walton, also known as "GizmoBob," was arrested Tuesday morning on charges of conspiracy and manufacturing satellite signal devices. He was indicted Jan. 23, according to the FBI
- Linh Ly, 38, of Rosemead, who, prosecutors say, has agreed to plead guilty to violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and distributing decryption software that caused a loss of $561,507
- Richard Seamans, 52, of Chino Hills, who was indicted Jan. 30 on charges of violating the DMCA and distributing decryption devices
- Joseph Bolosky, 30, of Panorama City, who has agreed to plead guilty to charges of manufacturing decryption devices and has stipulated a loss amount of $245,472, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Nine others, including residents of Kentucky, Ohio, Texas, Florida, Indiana and North Carolina, have also been charged, authorities said.
If convicted, each defendant faces up to five years in prison per count, along with a fine of up to $250,000 or $500,000 per count.
Ronald Iden, the FBI's assistant director in Los Angeles, said the case is an example of how law enforcement has "retooled" to deal with cybercrime.
He said hacking and theft of intellectual property threatens businesses and the economy.