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Convicted Software Pirate Gets 30 Months In Prison

Prosecutors say the man was part of the "warez scene" -- an underground community where pirated software is bought and sold in large quantities.

An Illinois man has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for being part of a conspiracy to distribute pirated software online.

Eli El, 40, of Blue Island, Ill., received a 30-month sentence, along with three years of supervision in a U.S. District Court in New Haven, Conn., late last week. He pleaded guilty this past May to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement for his participation in the distribution of about 20,000 copyrighted works over the Internet.

El is the twelfth defendant to be convicted in Operation Safehaven, a 15-month investigation led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and its Cybercrime Center. In the spring of 2003, more than 20 search warrants nationwide were executed as part of the sting operation, according to the Department of Justice.

The U.S. Attorney's Office reported that El and his cohorts worked through the so-called "warez scene" -- an underground online community where individual people and groups engage in large-scale, illegal distribution of copyrighted software. In the warez community, copyrighted software, video games, DVD movies, and MP3 music files and bought and sold, before they are commercially available to the general public.

The DOJ said in a statement that El gained privileged access to a number of warez file servers -- FTP sites -- where he was authorized to upload pirated software. In return, he was authorized to download other pirated software, games, and movies that had been uploaded by other members of the warez group.

The government also noted that in just one case El and his co-conspirators distributed approximately 20,000 individual copyrighted works over the Internet.

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