U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announced the 15-count indictment of the ringleader, a 26-year-old man from Perth, Australia; a 25-year-old San Diego cohort; and 17 others. The group made up a piracy gang known as RISCISO, which operated from 1993 to last summer, and collected more than 19 terabytes of pirated data.
Among the works agents found on RISCISO's servers were movies such as "Meet the Fockers" and "Oceans 12," software including Microsoft Windows and Intel's Fortran compiler, and games including Halflife 2 and WWII Sniper.
The RISCISO members, who ranged in age from 25 to 51, were mostly gainfully employed in high tech jobs. Among those indicted were IT directors for a law firm and telecomm company, two ISP system administrators, the owner of a computer security company, and an employee of a firm that provided software services to the U.S. Navy.
The so-called warez servers were accessed by the 19 in exchange for providing hardware contributions or pirated works, Fitzgerald said, and the 19 used a variety of strategies to keep the ring secret. To conceal their activities, they used computers outside the U.S. to drop off pirated works, and port bouncers to disguise the real IP addresses of their own computers and the group's servers.
The gang was pinched after an informer led the FBI to one of the RISCISO servers.
The 19 have been charged with conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, and must appear at a later date for arraignment. None have been arrested, but extradition efforts are under way to bring Sean Patrick O'Toole from Australia and Linda Waldron from Barbados to face charges.
"Online thieves who steal might think that cyberspace cloaks them in anonymity and makes them invulnerable, but we have the ability to infiltrate their secret networks and hold them accountable," said Fitzgerald in a statement.
The indictments were the result of investigations that the Justice Department dubbed "Operation Site Down" last summer, and are the second time the FBI has penetrated a warez group. The first was in 2003, when the agency prosecuted nine members of a gang tagged as "Fastlane."