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Intellectual Property Rights

Anaheim man charged with illegally modifying video game consoles

LOS ANGELES - An Anaheim man is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court today following his arrest on federal charges that he illegally modified Xbox, Playstation, Wii and other video game consoles, enabling those machines to play pirated video games.

Matthew Lloyd Crippen, 27, was taken into custody this morning by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Crippen's arrest comes following his indictment by a federal grand jury on two counts of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Specifically, Crippen is accused of modifying for personal financial gain technology affecting control or access to a copyrighted work. He will appear before a U.S. Magistrate this afternoon. Each criminal count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The charges against Crippen stem from an ICE investigation initiated late last year after the agency received a tip from the Entertainment Software Association. In May of this year, ICE agents executed a federal search warrant at Crippen's Anaheim residence, where they seized more than a dozen Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony video game consoles.

"Playing with games in this way is not a game - it is criminal," said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Los Angeles. "Piracy, counterfeiting and other intellectual property rights violations not only cost U.S. businesses jobs and billions of dollars a year in lost revenue, they can also pose significant health and safety risks to consumers."

As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE plays a leading role in investigating the production, smuggling and distribution of counterfeit products. ICE investigations into these intellectual property rights violations focus not only on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind this activity.

Counterfeiting and piracy, once seen by some as relatively harmless crimes, have grown in recent years in both magnitude and complexity. Industry and trade associations estimate that counterfeiting and piracy now cost the U.S. economy as much as $250 billion a year and a total of 750,000 American jobs. Some estimates indicate that 5 percent to 8 percent of all the goods and merchandise sold worldwide are counterfeit.