FBI Seizes Counterfeit Software

A two-year investigation by U.S. law enforcement authorities has resulted in one of the largest seizures of fake software ever in the U.S. and charges against 11 individuals, government officials say.

Millions in Fakes

The 11 defendants from California, Washington state, and Texas have been charged with conspiring to distribute counterfeit computer software and documentation with a retail value of more than $30 million, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California says in a statement released late Thursday.

The value of the pirated programs could actually be as high as $87 million, according to Thom Mrozek, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office. When arresting the defendants and searching their homes, offices and storage facilities, FBI agents stumbled upon an additional stockpile of more than $56 million worth of products falsely labeled as coming from Microsoft, Symantec, and Adobe Systems, he says.

The defendants have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles and are scheduled to appear before a judge on September 20. If convicted, the defendants face maximum sentences of between 15 years and 75 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Microsoft Targeted

A bulk of the illegal products seized were Microsoft products. With a total street value of about $80 million, this is the largest seizure of fake Microsoft products in history, representatives of the software giant say in a statement. Microsoft worked closely with the authorities in Los Angeles on the case, which was code-named "Digital Marauder."

The investigation is the latest of several operations to crack down on counterfeit software. Earlier this month, German authorities sentenced a man thought to be behind much of Europe's software piracy.

As part of the two-year probe, investigators have also seized CD copying and printing equipment, Mrozek adds.

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