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Two Men Charged In Software Piracy Ring

23 Jan, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

Two Los Angeles men have agreed to plead guilty to charges they infringed copyrights with their activities in the DrinkOrDie software piracy ring.

Kentaga Kartadinata, 29, and Mike Nguyen, 26, were arraigned Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Both told the 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 pair could have faced multiple counts without the deal.

Charges against both men were the first filed in the wake of 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.

"This is a digital form of contraband," said Customs spokesman Kevin Bell. "The cracked software that they steal and send to their friends is contraband software."

The plea agreements shed light on how the DrinkOrDie hacker ring, part of a network of ‘Warez" software pirate groups, operate, Johnson said.

Kartadinata operated an e-mail server for the group and Nguyen managed software servers that housed thousands of items of pirated movie, computer software files, according to the suspects' pleas.

The pirates often distributed the products among their members before they were commercially available, including movie titles like Pearl Harbor before they were even in theatrical release, Johnson said.

"They pirated virtually all of the movies that you could rent at a Blockbuster," Johnson said, along with console games including Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Serious Sam and various computer software programs. "My understanding is that they pirated virtually every console game or video game that you would find on the market... all of which had the security features." The forensic analysis has not been completed.

Warez members are a sophisticated, worldwide hacker gang that includes participants from college students to corporate executives, authorities said at the time of the raids. But their primary motivation is not personal gain, but peer recognition and spreading free access to digital products.

The groups have "strategically situated members, often information technology specialists who worked with corporate or university computer systems – surreptitiously locate Warez computers within the …infrastructure," Johnson said. 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 resulting from the investigation were conducted as far away as Holland, and more raids are expected.

"We have 50 terabytes of data to go through," Bell said. "We're still going through this stuff. We definitely have plans to go after the other seven or eight Warez groups."

Bell said.

The men are scheduled to enter their pleas Monday in Los Angeles.

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