International Software Pirate 'Bandido' Pleads Guilty

The British national was extradited from Australia in February to face charges in the United States. He faces 10 years in prison.
The leader of one of the oldest and most renowned Internet software piracy groups has pleaded guilty to copyright charges, in one of the first cases where someone was extradited for an intellectual property offense.

Hew Raymond Griffiths, 44, a British national living in Bateau Bay, Australia, was extradited from Australia in February to face criminal charges in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. He pleaded guilty last Friday to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and one count of criminal copyright infringement. He is slated to be sentenced on June 22.

Griffiths, known by the screen nickname "Bandido," could receive a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

"Griffiths claimed to be beyond the reach of U.S. law, and today, we have proven otherwise," said Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher, in an earlier statement. "This extradition represents the Department of Justice's commitment to protect intellectual property rights from those who violate our laws from the other side of the globe."

Before being brought to the United States, Griffiths had spent nearly three years incarcerated at a detention center in Australia while fighting his extradition in the Australian courts.

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

To date, Operation Buccaneer has resulted in more than 30 felony convictions in the U.S. and 11 convictions of foreign nationals overseas, according to a DoJ statement. Prior to its 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.

The government's documents showed that Griffiths admitted that he oversaw all the illegal operations of DrinkOrDie, which specialized in cracking software and distributing the cracked versions over the Internet. He 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.

The government contends Griffiths also held leadership roles in several other well-known warez groups, including Razor1911 and RiSC.

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