Following a year-long investigation, federal agents executed 32 search warrants in the largest federal effort against trafficking in illegal devices used to circumvent copyright protections in video games and other software played on consoles, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office said.
The illegal hardware, which was made overseas and imported into the United States, played counterfeit software on Sony's PlayStation 2, Microsoft's Xbox and Xbox 360, and Nintendo's Wii.
People arrested in the raids are suspected of the importation, installation, sale, and distribution of the devices. Names of the suspects, as well as addresses and details of the raids, weren't released. Representatives of the electronic industry assisted ICE agents.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that the U.S. economy loses from $200 billion to $250 billion each year because of counterfeiting and piracy. In addition, up to 750,000 jobs are lost.
In fiscal year 2006, the ICE and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office marked an 83% increase in the number of intellectual property rights seizures, including the confiscation of nearly 14,700 counterfeit goods worth more than $155 million. ICE investigations resulted in 219 arrests, 134 indictments, and 170 convictions for IP rights violations.
The ICE office in Cleveland, Ohio, led the latest crackdown. States where raids were conducted are California, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin.