Management

Florida Brothers Plead Guilty to Software Piracy Charges

13 Nov, 2007

Men agree to plead guilty to copyright infringement and other charges for illegally reselling more than $5 million worth of Adobe, Autodesk, and other software online.


The Business Software Alliance (BSA) reported last week that two Lakeland, Florida, brothers pleaded guilty this week to managing several for-profit software piracy Web sites and selling more than $5 million worth of pirated computer software, including software from Adobe and Autodesk.

Maurice A. Robberson, 48, and his brother Thomas K. Robberson, 54, were scheduled to stand trial before U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hamilton in Alexandria, Virginia, but before the trial began, Thomas Robberson agreed to plead guilty to a single count of copyright infringement and Maurice Robberson agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and trafficking in counterfeit goods. Maurice Robberson also pleaded guilty to a count of copyright infringement. Thomas Robberson faces up to five years in federal prison, and Maurice Robberson faces up to 10 years. Their sentencing is scheduled for March 7, 2008.

A third conspirator, Danny Ferrer, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and copyright infringement charges on June 15, 2006. Ferrer is currently serving 72 months in federal prison and has forfeited an array of assets to pay restitution of more than $4.1 million.

In early 2004, BSA began investigating these individuals after receiving complaints from software copyright holders. After reviewing the reported Web sites, BSA made undercover purchases and determined that the software sold was pirated. The BSA then referred the case to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington Field Office, which conducted its own investigation and subsequently shut the operation down in October 2005.

"Operations like the Robberson brothers are not rare. Software pirates lurk in the trade routes, claiming to offer steep discounts on authentic products," said John Wolfe, director of Internet enforcement for the BSA. "It's important that consumers be aware of online dangers and recognize threats posed by software pirates. Purchasing unlicensed software online not only makes computers vulnerable to viruses but can place sensitive financial information in the hands of criminals when personal credit cards are used to make the purchase. In this case, the Robberson brothers deceived unsuspecting consumers by advertising the sale of legitimate software but ultimately provided them with only pirated copies."

The FBI investigation determined that since late 2002, the individuals conspired to sell more than $5 million of counterfeit software products that were copyrighted by BSA member companies at discount prices. For example, software purchased by the BSA for $57 had a retail value of more than $600. The conspirators manufactured pirated copies on CD-ROM discs and included labels that featured trademarks of the legitimate software companies, tactics that were meant to dupe unsuspecting consumers. The Internet Web sites used by the conspiracy included BUYSUSA.com, CDSalesUSA.com, AmericanSoftwareSales.com, TheDealDepot.net, and BestValueShoppe.com.

"If consumers see prices that appear too good to be true, then they probably are," explained Wolfe. "Software offered at such low prices should be an immediate red flag to all online consumers. We commend the Federal Bureau of Investigation Washington Office for working to bring the operators of some of the largest U.S. for-profit software piracy Web sites to justice."

BSA aims to promote safe and legal software use. The organization represents the commercial software industry and its hardware partners before governments and in the international marketplace.


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