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Alleged Hacker Gang Leader Pleads Guilty

27 Feb, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

The alleged ringleader of the DrinkOrDie hacker gang today admitted to causing between $2.5 million and $5 million in damages by allowing the distribution of illegal software, games and movies over the Internet.

John Sankus Jr., 28, made the admissions in the first guilty plea in the case. He could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement when he is sentenced May 17 in a federal court in Virginia.

"This plea is another significant step in our effort to eliminate intellectual property crime on the Internet and to make it safe for individuals and businesses to develop and use new software and technologies," U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty stated. "John Sankus and his group knew what they were doing was illegal, and they took every technological step possible to conceal their identity."

Kentaga Kartadinata, 29, and Mike Nguyen, 26, were arraigned Jan. 23 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Both told that court they intended to plead guilty to the charges under agreements that would limit their sentences to a minimum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine and possible restitution to the victims of their crimes. The alleged hackers could have faced multiple counts without the deal.

Sankus ran DrinkOrDie's daily operations and was in contact with 60 people who cracked and distributed pirated software over the Internet, prosecutors said.

Sankus, like Kartadinata and Nguyen, agreed to cooperate with investigators as part of the plea. Sankus and his attorneys were not immediately available for comment.

All of the charges stem from a federal crackdown Dec. 11 that found FBI and U.S. Customs agents raiding offices, homes and college campuses to seize computers and contraband data. No Southern California studio properties were raided, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Johnson. Authorities found the hidden repositories after raiding computers at Bank of America, MIT, UCLA and several other prominent schools and businesses across the country. Raids were also conducted abroad in a cooperative law enforcement effort.

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