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Intellectual Property Rights

Member of Internet piracy group "IMAGiNE" sentenced to 23 months in prison for criminal copyright conspiracy

WASHINGTON — A member of the Internet piracy group "IMAGiNE" was sentenced to 23 months in prison following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Washington, D.C.

Javier E. Ferrer, 41, of New Port Richey, Fla., was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Henry C. Morgan in the Eastern District of Virginia. In addition to his prison term, Ferrer was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution.

Ferrer pleaded guilty Nov. 29, 2012, to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. He is the fifth member of the IMAGiNE Group who has been sentenced to prison for the copyright conspiracy.

On Sept. 13, 2012, Ferrer was charged with criminal information for his role in the IMAGiNE Group, an organized online piracy ring that sought to become the premier group to first release Internet copies of movies only showing in theaters. Four other IMAGiNE Group members, including the group's leader, were indicted April 18, 2012, for their roles in the IMAGiNE Group. 

According to court documents, Ferrer and his co-conspirators sought to illegally obtain and disseminate digital copies of copyrighted motion pictures showing in theaters. Ferrer actively participated in the IMAGiNE Group's illegal efforts to film copyrighted motion pictures currently showing in theaters as his co-conspirators used receivers and recording devices to secretly capture audio sound tracks of copyrighted movies playing in movie theaters. After the IMAGiNE Group obtained illegal copies of the audio and video portions of copyrighted motion pictures, Ferrer and his co-conspirators also engaged in processing or "encoding" the video files to enhance the picture quality and in synchronizing the audio files with the video files to make completed movies suitable for reproduction and distribution over the Internet, without the permission of the copyright owners.

According to testimony by a representative of the Motion Picture Association of America, the IMAGiNE Group constituted the most prolific motion picture piracy release group operating on the Internet from September 2009 through September 2011.

Co-defendants Sean M. Lovelady, Willie O. Lambert, Gregory A. Cherwonik and Jeramiah B. Perkins pleaded guilty May 9, June 22, July 11 and Aug. 29, 2012, respectively, to one count each of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. Lambert and Lovelady were sentenced Nov. 2, 2012, to 30 months and 23 months in prison, respectively. Cherwonik was sentenced Nov. 29, 2012, to 40 months in prison. Perkins, the leader of the group, was sentenced Jan. 3 to 60 months in prison.

The investigation of the case and the arrests were conducted by agents with the HSI Washington, D.C., Field Office. 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 (CCIPS) are prosecuting the case. Significant assistance was provided by the CCIPS Cyber Crime Lab and the Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs.

This investigation was supported by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington. The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice's IP Task Force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21-member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, and 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.