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November 30, 2014London, United KingdomIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

ICE-led probe leads to arrest of 2 UK men allegedly linked to pre-release leak of The Expendables 3

LONDON — Two men from northern England have been arrested by authorities in the United Kingdom after a probe initiated by Los Angeles-based special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) linked the pair to the pre-release leak earlier this year of The Expendables 3.

The suspects, a 36-year-old man from Upton, and a 33-year-old man from Dewsbury, were taken into custody Nov. 25 by detectives with the City of London Police Department’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU). The two men, who are being charged by authorities in the U.K. with conspiring to illegally distribute the action movie sequel, were questioned and released on bail pending further court hearings in May 2015.

Authorities allege the pair stole the film from a cloud-based system before uploading it onto the Internet. The pre-release leak of the movie was viewed hundreds of thousands of times, resulting in a significant financial loss to the companies that produced it, Lionsgate and Millennium Films. The film, featuring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Arnold Schwarzenegger, was scheduled to premiere in U.S. movie theaters Aug. 15. However, sometime around July 25 a high-quality version of the movie appeared on the Internet.

“The film and television production industry contribute more than $80 billion a year to the domestic economy and their continued success is vital to the prosperity of the United States,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “Internet crooks don’t pay wages or taxes. They don’t fund pensions and healthcare plans. All they do is get rich at the expense of those who do. These arrests should serve as a warning shot across the bow of online pirates that we intend to hold them accountable for their crimes.”

“The public needs to be aware that piracy is not a victimless crime,” said the PIPCU’s Detective Chief Inspector Danny Medlycott. “By downloading illegal music, film, TV and books, you are not only exposing your own computer to the risk of viruses and malware, but you are also putting hardworking people’s livelihoods at risk as piracy threatens the security of thousands of jobs in the U.K.’s creative industries.”

Last week’s arrests are the latest development in an HSI-led probe that began in late July after a representative for Lionsgate Films alerted HSI special agents about the pre-release leak of The Expendables 3. Investigators stress the probe is ongoing and more arrests are possible. In addition to authorities in the U.K., HSI has received significant assistance with the case from the U.S. Secret Service and the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.