Computer Crime Research Center


Movie pirates behind the bar

Date: February 02, 2006
Source: Chicago Tribune
By: Rudolph Bush

Federal prosecutors Wednesday charged 19 members of an alleged software- and movie-pirating ring with stealing more than $6.5 million in copyrighted material.

The group, known among members as RISCISO, is accused of copying and sharing pirated films, software and video games through password-protected sites on the Internet, authorities said.

U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald said the group, founded in 1993, collected a staggering amount of pirated material. On a single server, the group stored more than 23,000 CD-ROMs of movies, songs, games and software, the indictment alleges.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Pravin Rao described the investigation as one of the largest busts of its kind in Chicago.

FBI agents in Chicago closed in on the ring through the help of a cooperating witness, who gave them access to one of the group's servers, authorities said.

The witness, described in court documents as a trusted member of the group for at least two years, helped agents track members' identities, their file sharing activity and the types of computer systems they used, authorities said.

Among the pirated material federal agents found were copies of movies such as "Sideways," "The Incredibles," "Meet the Fockers" and "Vanity Fair," authorities said. Software included Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Intel applications, they said.

The group would gather material in a variety of ways, including altering trial versions of software for permanent use, Rao said.

It was not clear whether the group's members sold the pirated technology or simply shared it among themselves, authorities said.

"Whether or not the defendants make a profit, if all this technology and all this copyrighted work is out there for free ... we are hurting our ability to develop technology and software," Fitzgerald said.

Authorities suspect the group had some 50 to 60 members, Rao said.

One of the 19 charged is Tu Nguyen, 29, of Chicago. Nguyen, a software consultant working on a doctorate in math, could not be immediately located for comment.

FBI agents raided his South Clark Street condominium on June 29 and seized a cache of computer equipment, according to court documents.

Nguyen's attorney, Michael Levinson, declined to comment.

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