FBI Seizes $87 Million in Fake Software

Jeff Berg
LOS ANGELES – FBI agents seized close to $87 million in counterfeit software and fingered 11 people for conspiracy to distribute the pirated software, officials said Thursday.

The two-year investigation came to a head Wednesday when a federal grand jury handed down indictments in Operation Digital Marauder.

“Today’s indictment marks an important milestone in our mission to curb intellectual property theft,” said Attorney General John Ashcroft. “The theft of intellectual property is a multi-billion dollar fraud that not only steals money from the creators of such ideas, but it also victimizes the American consumer. When industry is forced to increase prices in order to recoup the money lost due to theft, we all pay those costs.”

California residents Sanh Thai, Hung Lu, and Roger Le were charged with setting up a counterfeit operation that replicated Adobe, Symantec and Microsoft software in the Los Angeles area and commissioning San Francisco-based printer Thanh Tuong to print false documentation for the products.

Officials allege that the documentation and software was shipped to six Washington and Texas distributors, who were also charged during the investigation.

The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned Monday in United States District Court in Los Angeles. If the defendants are convicted, they stand to face up to 75 years in federal prison.

“The scope of this case is unprecedented,” said United States Attorney Debra M. Yang, a member of the Attorney General’s Intellectual Property Task Force. “In one indictment, we have charged both the manufacturers who supplied the counterfeit items and the distributors who flooded the market with the bogus goods. We have devoted the time and resources that were needed to dismantle an entire distribution chain, from beginning to end.”

According to a study by the Business Software Alliance, roughly $29 billion in pirated software was installed on computers last year. Pirated software, according to the study, amounted to 36 percent of all software installed worldwide.

Members of Microsoft’s digital integrity group, Symantec’s brand protection task force and Adobe’s anti-piracy staff, as well as local law enforcement group, assisted the FBI in the investigation.