By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 26, 2006
The owner of a major software piracy Web site was sentenced to six years in prison yesterday, one of the longest jail terms ever imposed for the growing crime of stealing copyrighted computer products, prosecutors said.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria also ordered Danny Ferrer, 37, to pay restitution of more than $4.1 million and to forfeit a wide variety of luxury goods he bought with millions of dollars in proceeds. They included three airplanes; a helicopter; and numerous cars, including a 1992 Lamborghini, a 2005 Hummer and two 2005 Chevrolet Corvettes.
Starting in 2002, Ferrer and a number of co-conspirators operated http://www.buysusa.com/ , which sold at huge discounts copies of software products copyrighted by such companies as Adobe Systems Inc., Autodesk Inc. and Macromedia Inc. The total loss to owners of the computer products was nearly $20 million, prosecutors said.
The sentencing in U.S. District Court was the latest step in a Justice Department crackdown against Internet pirates who distribute copyrighted software, movies, games and other products.
"Modern-day pirates ought to expect modern-day penalties," said U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg, who added that the sentence "sends a strong message to those who pilfer the intellectual property of others."
Nina Ginsburg, a lawyer for Ferrer, said the scheme started because he couldn't pay the medical bills from his wife's long-term illness. "That's not an excuse," said Ginsburg, who said Ferrer has a "huge amount of remorse" and has agreed to appear in business-group-sponsored public service announcements condemning software piracy.
One such group, the Business Software Alliance, brought the case to the FBI's attention. An undercover agent then purchased software from Ferrer's Web site. Ferrer lives in Lakeland, Fla., but the software was mailed to Northern Virginia, which is why the case was prosecuted there.
Ferrer pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement.
The Business Software Alliance estimates that software piracy cost the United States nearly $7 billion last year.
"It's a potentially devastating problem," said Caroline Joiner, executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's anti-counterfeiting and -piracy initiative. She said Ferrer's sentence "sends a strong signal that we are taking these crimes seriously."