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Intellectual Property Rights
06/22/2012

Member of Internet piracy group 'IMAGiNE' pleads guilty to copyright infringement conspiracy

NORFOLK, Va. — A Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to willfully reproduce and distribute tens of thousands of infringing copies of copyrighted works without permission, including infringing copies of movies before they were commercially released on DVD.

The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and supported by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington.

Willie O. Lambert, 57, of Pittston, Pa., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. Lambert faces up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release.

Lambert was indicted April 18 along with three other leading members of the IMAGiNE Group, an organized online piracy group seeking to become the premier group to first release Internet copies of new movies only showing in theaters. A co-defendant, Sean M. Lovelady, entered a guilty plea to the same charge May 8.

According to court documents, Lambert and his co-conspirators sought to illegally obtain and disseminate digital copies of copyrighted motion pictures showing in theaters. Lambert admitted that he went to movie theaters and secretly used receivers and recording devices to capture the audio sound tracks of copyrighted movies (referred to as "capping"). After obtaining, editing and filtering audio sound tracks and uploading them to servers utilized by the IMAGiNE Group, Lambert used and attempted to use software to synchronize the audio file with an illegally obtained video file of a movie to create a completed movie file suitable for sharing over the Internet among members of the IMAGiNE Group and others.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Krask of the Eastern District of Virginia and Senior Counsel John H. Zacharia of the Criminal Division's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States. Significant assistance was provided by the Criminal Division's Cyber Crime Lab and the Office of International Affairs in the Justice Department's Criminal Division.

This investigation was supported by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center in Washington. The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 20 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and our war fighters.