Five charged in US$3 million Windows piracy scam

Five individuals and two businesses have been charged with 16 criminal counts, including copyright infringement and trafficking in counterfeit goods, in a software piracy scam that allegedly netted the group more than US$3 million.

Five individuals and two businesses have been charged with 16 criminal counts, including copyright infringement and trafficking in counterfeit goods, in a software piracy scam that allegedly netted the group more than US$3 million.

The indictment, filed in August and made public this week, alleges that between May 1992 and November 1993 two businesses, U-Top Printing and U-Win Printing, engaged in the illegal copying and trafficking of Microsoft's Windows and MS DOS 5.0 software. The defendants who allegedly operated the businesses, Joe Huong, James Sung, Shirley Sung, Michael Ma and Anne Wang, also face several counts of criminal contempt, perjury and conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods.

The charges were filed in US District Court in San Jose after FBI and US Customs agents arrested Huong, 34, at Los Angeles International Airport last month as he waited to board a flight for his native Taiwan, says chief assistant US attorney Leland Altschuler.

U-Top allegedly reproduced and distributed more than 200,000 copies of the pirated software during the 18-month period -- the largest seizure of US-produced pirated software to date, according to a statement by the US Attorney's office for the Northern District of California.

Microsoft filed a civil lawsuit against U-Top on September 11, 1992. A federal judge ordered marshals to seize all copies of the pirated software found on the company's grounds and directed the Sungs not to transfer any assets until they could provide the court with accounting records.

The U.S. Attorney's Office was asked to investigate after the Sungs transferred US$1.9 million from a Hong Kong bank account, apparently in violation of the District Court order.

Joe Huong was brought before a federal magistrate judge this week. Two of the other defendants, Wang and Ma, are expected to surrender within the next two weeks, while the Sungs are considered fugitives and are most likely living outside of the US, Altschuler says. "Intellectual property cases, including criminal copyright cases, are a main priority for the US Attorney's Office," Altschuler says. The San Jose office, which leads the nation in the number of piracy cases, has seen a steady increase in the number of cases over the last three years, Altshculer says.

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