AUSTIN, Texas - Three men from north Texas pleaded guilty Friday to selling counterfeit computer software on the Internet which violates criminal copyright infringement laws. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted the investigation.
Thomas C. Rushing III, 24, of Wichita Falls, Texas, and Brian C. Rue, 29, of Denton, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count each of criminal copyright infringement before U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks in Austin, Texas. William Lance Partridge, 24, of Royse City, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal copyright infringement before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew W. Austin, in Austin. Rushing, Rue and Partridge each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release. They are all scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 19.
"The U.S. economy loses up to $250 billion annually due to counterfeiting of intellectual property - and a total of 750,000 American jobs," said Jerry Robinette, special agent in charge of the ICE office of investigation in San Antonio. "One of ICE's primary missions is to help enforce copyright infringement laws."
Documents filed with the court indicate that between early 2006 and September 2007, Rushing, Rue and Partridge operated several websites that sold a large volume of counterfeit software with a combined retail value of $2.5 million. The defendants admitted using websites identified as valuesoftwaresales.com, allsoftwaredownload.com, esoftwarevalue.com and priceslashsoftware.com to sell downloadable counterfeit software without authorization from the copyright owners. They also admitted promoting their scheme by purchasing advertising for their websites from major internet search engines.
This case is part of the Department of Justice's ongoing initiative to combat the sale of pirated software and counterfeit goods via commercial websites and online auction sites such as eBay. Including the three pleas secured today, this initiative has obtained 32 felony convictions. The Justice Department's initiative to combat commercial online piracy is just one of several steps being undertaken to address the losses caused by intellectual property theft and hold responsible those engaged in criminal copyright infringement.
The Rushing, Rue and Partridge cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Marc Miller of the Criminal Division's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew B. Devlin, Western District of Texas.
The ICE Cyber Crimes Center in Washington D.C. and the ICE agents in Austin, Texas, conducted the investigation.
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Enforcement:
ICE, along with its Department of Homeland Security partner U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), made nearly 14,000 seizures last fiscal year. ICE investigations in fiscal year 2007, resulted in 241 arrests, 149 indictments and 134 convictions on intellectual property rights (IPR) violations. During fiscal year 2007, ICE and CBP seized counterfeit or pirated merchandize worth approximately $200 million in domestic value, exceeding the value of the previous year's seizures by 27 percent.
In recent years, the proliferation of counterfeit goods is increasing at an alarming rate. That increase is driven by several factors. One is a growing public demand for brand name products at discount prices without regard to legal consequences. Another reason for the growth is the advent of technology that makes it easy to produce, duplicate and transfer protected materials such as movies and music.
The problem of counterfeiting and piracy, once seen by some as relatively harmless crimes, has grown in both magnitude and complexity. Some estimates indicate that 5 percent to 8 percent of all the goods and merchandise sold worldwide are counterfeit.
More information on IPR enforcement is available at: www.ice.gov.