German software pirate, and his father, get jail time

The noose appears to be tightening around one of Europe's largest software counterfeiting rings as a German court sentenced a second member of the network to prison on Monday, and handed a sentence to his father for helping run front operations.

After an 18-week trial, a criminal court in Stuttgart, Germany, sentenced the convicted software pirate to three years in prison without parole for copyright infringement and selling counterfeit Microsoft software. The court also convicted the defendant's father for his participation in the counterfeiting scheme, issuing him a 16-month jail term and 100 hours of community service.

The defendant, Dieter Rimmele, appears to be in his 30s while his father, Hubert Rimmele is 58 years old, according to sources close to the case. Dieter Rimmele had previously been arrested in 1999 for software manipulation and was sentenced to a year in jail. The three-year sentence he received on Monday comes on top of the 10 months he has already served in jail since being arrested late last year.

In this latest conviction, Rimmele's father and mother were investigated for helping him manage front operations to conceal his illegal activities, but the mother was not convicted because of health reasons, sources said.

The sentencing of the father-son team comes three months after another convicted software pirate and leader of the same counterfeiting ring, Ralph Blasek, was given five-and-a-half years in prison for selling counterfeit Microsoft goods.

All three convictions resulted from a massive operation by German police into the counterfeiting ring, according to sources close to the case. The defendants tampered with genuine Microsoft educational software, which educational institutions purchase at a discounted rate, and then sold it as full-versions for a much higher price.

The piracy ring is considered one of Europe's largest, responsible for counterfeiting over US$100 million worth of software over just the past few years, sources said. Additionally, the group supposedly produced counterfeit software at a CD manufacturing plant in Germany, which primarily produces music CDs.

Two more alleged members of the same counterfeiting ring are currently on trial, sources said.

A Microsoft representatives said Tuesday that the company was pleased with the crackdown, and that it would continue working with local police enforcement agencies to quash illegal software sales.

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