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Intellectual Property Rights
09/09/2011

Ninjavideo website operators charged with criminal copyright conspiracy

WASHINGTON - A federal grand jury has returned an indictment in Alexandria, Va., charging five individuals with one count of conspiracy and five substantive copyright infringement counts for their involvement with the Internet website NinjaVideo.net. This investigation is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in conjunction with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center).

The indictment was announced by ICE Director John Morton; Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department's Criminal Division; and U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride, Eastern District of Virginia.

According to the indictment returned yesterday, the NinjaVideo website operated from February 2008 until it was shut down by law enforcement in June 2010. NinjaVideo allegedly provided millions of website visitors with the ability to illegally download infringing copies of copyright-protected movies and television programs in high-quality formats. Many of the movies offered on the website were still playing in theaters, while others had not yet been released. The website allegedly offered many copyrighted movies and television shows free of charge, and offered access to a greater selection of copyrighted content for a "donation" of at least $25. The website also generated significant revenue through advertising. The defendants allegedly collected more than $500,000 during the website's 2.5 years of operation and facilitated the infringement of millions of dollars of copyrighted movies, television programs and software products.

The indictment charged the following individuals: Hana Amal Beshara, 29, of North Brunswick, N.J., and Matthew David Howard Smith, 23, of Raleigh, N.C., identified in the indictment as founders and administrators of NinjaVideo; Joshua David Evans, 34, of North Bend, Wash., and Zoi Mertzanis, 36, a resident of Greece, alleged to be two of the most active uploaders of copyrighted material to the site; and Jeremy Lynn Andrew, 33, of Eugene, Ore., the alleged head of security for the website.

The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 16, 2011, at 9 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga in the Eastern District of Virginia.

The investigation was conducted by ICE HSI in conjunction with the IPR Center. The ICE-led 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 19 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 the war fighters.

NinjaVideo was seized during the first phase of "Operation In Our Sites," a sustained law enforcement initiative to protect consumers by targeting counterfeiting and piracy over the Internet.

To report IP theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.

The indictment announced today is an example of efforts being undertaken by the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force). U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder created the IP Task Force to combat the growing number of domestic and international intellectual property crimes, protect the health and safety of American consumers, and safeguard the nation's economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work. The IP Task Force seeks to strengthen intellectual property rights protection through heightened criminal and civil enforcement, greater coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and increased focus on international enforcement efforts, including reinforcing relationships with key foreign partners and U.S. industry leaders.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jay V. Prabhu and Lindsay A. Kelly and Trial Attorney Glenn Alexander of the Criminal Division's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.

Criminal indictments are only charges and are not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.