'Bandido' Software Pirate Sentenced To 51 Months

The feds called Hew Raymond Griffiths one of the most notorious leaders of the underground Internet piracy community. His extradition was one of the first for an intellectual property offense.

Sharon Gaudin, Contributor

June 26, 2007

2 Min Read

A man, known as the Bandido and described by U.S. prosecutors as the leader of one of the oldest and most renowned Internet software piracy groups, was sentenced to 51 months in prison.

Hew Raymond Griffiths, 44, a British national living in Bateau Bay, Australia, was sentenced based on one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. He was extradited to the U.S. this past February. Griffiths had spent nearly three years incarcerated at a detention center in Australia while fighting his extradition in Australian court.

He pleaded guilty on April 20.

"From his home in Australia, Griffiths became one of the most notorious leaders of the underground Internet piracy community by orchestrating the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars in copyrighted material," Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher said in a statement. "The Justice Department is committed to protecting intellectual property rights, and will pursue those who commit such crimes, beyond the borders of the United States where necessary."

According to a release from the Justice Department, Griffiths was a leader in an organized criminal group known as DrinkOrDie, which had a reputation as one of the oldest and most security-conscious piracy groups on the Internet. DrinkOrDie was founded in Russia in 1993 and expanded internationally throughout the 1990s. The government reported that the group was dismantled by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as part of Operation Buccaneer in December 2001, with more than 70 raids conducted in the United States and five foreign countries, including the United Kingdom, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Australia.

To date, the department said Operation Buccaneer has produced more than 30 felony convictions in the U.S. and 11 convictions of foreign nationals overseas. Before this dismantling, DrinkOrDie was estimated to have caused the illegal reproduction and distribution of more than $50 million worth of pirated software, movies, games, and music, according to prosecutors.

Griffiths, known by the screen nickname Bandido, was a longtime leader of DrinkOrDie and an elder in the highest echelons of the underground Internet piracy community, also known as the warez scene, prosecutors reported. He was sentenced last Friday.

DrinkOrDie specialized in cracking software codes and distributing the cracked versions over the Internet. The government reported in its release that its victims included well-known companies such as Adobe, Autodesk, Microsoft, Novell, and Symantec.

"Whether committed with a gun or a keyboard, theft is theft," U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg said in a statement. "And, for those inclined to steal intellectual property here, or from halfway around the world, they are on notice that we can and will reach them."

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