Sam Kuonen, 24, of Columbus, Ga., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Kansas to a two-count felony charge of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and criminal copyright infringement in violation of the Family Entertainment Copyright Act. He faces up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and three years of supervised release.
Kuonen is scheduled to be sentenced on July 16.
This is the fifth in a series of convictions arising from Operation D-Elite, an ongoing federal crackdown against the illegal distribution of copyrighted movies, software, games, and music over P2P networks employing the BitTorrent file sharing technology. BitTorrent is a P2P communications protocol.
Operation D-Elite, according to a release from the department, targeted leading members of a technologically sophisticated P2P network known as Elite Torrents. At its prime, the Elite Torrents network attracted more than 133,000 members and facilitated the illegal distribution of more than 17,800 titles -- including movies, software, music, and games -- which were downloaded more than two million times, the government contends. The "virtually unlimited" content selection available on the Elite Torrents network often included illegal copies of copyrighted works before they were available in retail stores or movie theatres.
The department's report states that Kuonen was an "uploader" to the Elite Torrents network, responsible for supplying the network with the first copy of a particular movie or other content that was then made available to the entire network for downloading.
On May 25, 2005, federal agents shut down the Elite Torrents network by taking control of its main server. After seizing the server, authorities replaced the existing Web page with a law enforcement message that said: "This Site Has Been Permanently Shut Down by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement." Within one week, the law enforcement message was viewed more than half a million times, according to Justice.
Operation D-Elite is a joint investigation by ICE and the FBI as part of the Computer and Technology Crime High-Tech Response Team, a San Diego task force of specially trained prosecutors and law enforcement officers who focus on high-tech crime.