BALTIMORE — A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment today charging a Baltimore man with conspiring to, and illegally reproducing and distributing more than 1,000 copyrighted commercial software programs, with a total value of more than $4 million, following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Naveed Sheikh, 30, was charged in a four count superseding indictment alleging that from February 2004 to June 2008, Sheikh conspired to infringe copyrights. If convicted, Sheikh faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy and for each of three counts of copyright infringement. Sheikh is detained. No court appearance has been scheduled. The indictment seeks forfeiture of $4 million as the proceeds of the scheme.
The indictment alleges that Sheikh recruited and compensated co-conspirators, directed the actions of other co-conspirators, obtained infringing copies of software that were used for distribution, and planned and organized the activities of the conspiracy. Sheikh allegedly advertised through his Internet website and sold infringing copyrighted commercial software at prices well below the suggested retail prices of legitimate, authorized copies of the software. According to the indictment, Sheikh advised purchasers that the programs offered for sale were not legal because they were copies of original software programs or "cracked" versions and could not be registered with the legitimate companies that developed the software programs and held copyrights covering the software. Some of the copyrighted works included Microsoft Office, Microsoft Money 2006 Small Business, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects Pro 7.0, Veritas NetBackUp Pro 5.1, Solid Works Office 2000 Premium, Quicken Premier Home and Business 2006, and Apple iLife 2006.
The indictment alleges that Sheikh advised purchasers that software programs could be mailed to purchasers on compact discs and downloaded from the Internet. Sheikh caused the creation of DVD-Rs and CD-Rs with copyright infringing software programs and crack codes. Crack codes allow an individual to modify software to remove or disable security protections. Sheikh allegedly requested that purchasers send money orders for infringing software to a P.O. box he maintained in Towson, Md. Sheikh also permitted customers to pay for infringing software through credit card charges and electronic fund transfers. Sheikh paid a company that hosted Internet domains to register multiple Internet domains, including ezencode.com, lazer-toners.com, and coark.net. Sheikh hosted the website, www.ezencode.com, on computers in Scranton, Pa., and Bel Air, Md. Sheikh used computers at his residence in Bel Air and other computers, to contact and control his computer located in Scranton.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
The investigation was conducted by HSI Baltimore, the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service with the assistance of the Business Software Alliance.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry M. Gruber.