Man Sentenced For Selling $1 Million In Counterfeit Software On eBay

The Michigan man bought counterfeit software and then resold it in 49 different auctions on eBay.

Sharon Gaudin, Contributor

May 7, 2007

3 Min Read

A Michigan man has been sentenced to five months in prison and five months home confinement for selling more than $1 million worth of counterfeit computer software on eBay.

James Thomas, 38, of Belleville, Mich., was sentenced late last week in U.S. District court in the Eastern District of Michigan. At his guilty plea on Dec. 13, 2006, Thomas admitted that he purchased counterfeit Rockwell Automation software through eBay and then duplicated and resold the copyrighted material to other eBay users, according to a U.S. Department of Justice release.

Between Aug. 26, 2003 and Sept. 7, 2004, using two different eBay user names, Thomas sold counterfeit copies of Rockwell Automation software in 49 separate eBay auctions, receiving more than $14,625. The actual retail value of this software was in excess of $1 million.

"Intellectual property theft is especially dangerous to our economy because it involves stealing the competitive edge of those who invest their money and creativity to be innovative," U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Murphy said. "We must protect the intellectual property of U.S. companies if we are going to be able to compete in the digital age economy. Both my office and the Department of Justice, as a whole, have made prosecution of cybercrime and intellectual property cases a high priority."

The case arose from a DOJ initiative to combat online auction piracy. FBI agents executed a search warrant at Thomas' residence in Columbiaville, Mich., on Dec. 15, 2004, seizing computers, CDs, and other devices used to manufacture the counterfeit software and sell it on eBay, according to the government.

Thomas admitted that he became aware of Rockwell Automation software through his job with Ford Motor, the DOJ reported. He further admitted that he knew it was illegal for him to sell the copyrighted software, but did it because "it was easy money."

Rockwell Automation is a global provider of automation, power, control, and information solutions. It produces specialized factory management software.

The DOJ reported that the majority of the software that Thomas sold on eBay had a retail price ranging from about $900 to $11,325.

Thomas forfeited the computers and other equipment used in the offense and has been ordered to pay Rockwell Automation more than $15,660 in restitution.

In March, an Indiana man was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for selling more than $700,000 worth of counterfeit computer software on eBay. He, too, hit Rockwell Automation.

Courtney Smith, 36, of Anderson, Ind., pleaded guilty and was sentenced in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Indiana for selling counterfeit computer software over the Internet in violation of criminal copyright infringement laws. At the sentencing, Smith admitted to the court that he bought illegally copied Rockwell Automation computer software through the auction site, and then duplicated and resold the software, which is still copyright protected, to other eBay users, according to court documents.

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