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Banner Day in Auction Software Piracy Fight: SIIA Announces 26th Lawsuit of ’08 and Guilty Plea Entered in Auction Site Piracy Criminal Case
Thursday, May 15, 2008
SIIA’s Auction Litigation Program Provided Lead to Justice Department, Resulting in Criminal Prosecution of Jeremiah Mondello, a Notorious eBay Software Pirate
Washington, DC -- Dramatic legal action against auction site software pirates was announced today by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) and the Department of Justice. SIIA filed nine new lawsuits against individual sellers of pirated software on eBay, bringing its year-to-date total to 26 cases. Meanwhile a guilty plea was entered by Jeremiah Mondello, one of the most notorious sellers of pirated software on eBay.
The new lawsuits are part of SIIA’s Auction Litigation Program, which was also responsible for providing the DOJ with information that led to Mondello pleading guilty to counts of copyright infringement, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. The latest round of lawsuits continues SIIA’s commitment to ramping up software auction enforcement in 2008. SIIA began with nine lawsuits in February, filed an additional eight in March, and announced another nine today. Each of the recent suits was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of SIIA member companies, including Adobe Systems Incorporated and Symantec Corporation.
The most recent lawsuits charged all of the following with knowingly selling software illegally on eBay: Edward Hackim of Raleigh, North Carolina; Luis Chang of Rowland Heights, California; John Maiella of Henderson, Nevada; Max Acosta of Los Angeles, California; Joe Bramble of Springport, Michigan; Christopher Cain of Staten Island, New York; Gabrielle Berthelot-Leven of Medley, Florida; Guy Vinette and Matthew Sanchez of Niagara Falls, New York.
In addition to these cases, SIIA teamed up with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to pursue Jeremiah Mondello, an eBay seller who used stolen bank account information to create more than 40 fictitious eBay and PayPal identities to sell pirated software via the auction site.
Late Wednesday, Mondello, formerly a college student from the University of Oregon, pled guilty before a district court in Oregon to charges of copyright infringement, aggravated identity theft, and mail fraud -- and is facing both extensive jail time and fines for his fraudulent sales, which amounted to a five to six figure sales volume.
SIIA began investigating the eBay seller later discovered to be Mondello in 2007. Using data collected by SIIA’s proprietary Auction Enforcement Tool, SIIA identified Mondello through his eBay seller ID and determined there were many more additional eBay identities that likely were being used by Mondello. SIIA then referred all of its case information to the DOJ’s Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS). DOJ investigators were able to determine that Mondello was not just using a handful of falsified identities – he had created over 40 fictitious seller IDs. He accomplished this by recorded and stealing people's bank account information through a keystroke logger that he distributed over the Internet. He then used that information to set up false PayPal accounts using fictitious seller names. By creating these fake seller IDs he was able to artificially inflate his relatively high standing in the eBay marketplace, which he then used to attract sales and deliver the pirated goods.
Keith Kupferschmid, SVP of Intellectual Property Policy & Enforcement for SIIA, noted that "This case is a huge victory in the fight against software piracy on eBay and other auction sites. Mondello stole innocent people’s personal information and used it on eBay to attract sales and deliver pirated software to unsuspecting consumers. We applaud the DOJ for their tireless efforts to promptly crack this difficult case and to put Mondello and those like him where they belong -- behind bars. This case emphasizes why SIIA remains so diligent and engaged when it comes to anti-piracy enforcement and why consumers should be leery of any software deal that seems too good to be true."
Mondello pled guilty to one charge of copyright infringement in the amount of $400,000 to $1 million. That puts him at a certain level for sentencing under the federal sentencing guidelines whereby he could get a maximum of five years in prison, $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release; one count of aggravated identity theft, which comes with a mandatory minimum of two years in prison (this is not discretionary); and mail fraud, which comes with a penalty of up to 20 years in jail, $250,000 fine and up to three years of supervised release. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 23rd.
Scott Bain, SIIA Litigation Counsel, further stated that "Unsuspecting consumers and legitimate software sellers continue to be harmed by the large number of counterfeit and other unauthorized products being advertised and sold online, on sites such as eBay."
Auction sellers will be held accountable for the products they are selling, Bain added, "regardless of whether they knew – or claimed ignorance – that the products were counterfeit, or unauthorized OEM or other contraband (grey market) software."
To date, the SIIA program has led to judgments and settlements against illegal eBay sellers as well as other websites dealing in counterfeit, OEM, unbundled, unauthorized education, and other versions of software not authorized for Internet resale. Damages paid by defendants have run as high as several hundred thousand dollars. SIIA also has successfully tracked and pursued the upstream sources of some of these products, and will continue to do so.
The SIIA Auction Litigation Program aims to educate buyers and sellers on auction sites as to the harms caused all parties by illegal software resale. Sellers can be prosecuted and buyers can be stuck with viruses, no technical support and no recourse. In addition to the auction piracy lawsuits, SIIA has also sought to protect legitimate sellers and unsuspecting buyers by publishing software buying guides for auction sites, and implementing a certification program for software sellers (Certified Software Resellers) to help steer consumers of auctioned software to sellers who have promised to sell only legal software.
The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) is the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry. SIIA provides global services in government relations, business development, corporate education and intellectual property protection to more than 550 leading software and information companies. For further information, visit: www.siia.net.
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