FBI seizes $87 million worth of illegal software

A two-year investigation by US law enforcement authorities has resulted in one of the largest seizures of fake software ever in the U.S. and charges against 11 individuals, government officials said Thursday.

The 11 defendants from California, Washington and Texas have been charged with conspiring to distribute counterfeit computer software and documentation with a retail value of more than US$30 million, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California said in a statement.

The value could rise to US$87 million, U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Thom Mrozek said. When arresting the defendants and searching their homes, offices and storage facilities, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents stumbled upon an additional stockpile of more than US$56 million worth of fake Microsoft, Symantec and Adobe Systems products, he said.

As part of the two-year probe, investigators have also seized CD copying and printing equipment, Mrozek said.

A bulk of the illegal products were Microsoft products. With a total street value of about US$80 million, this is the largest seizure of fake Microsoft products in history, the Redmond, Washington-based company said in a statement. Microsoft worked closely with the authorities in Los Angeles on the case, which was code-named "Digital Marauder."

The defendants have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles and are scheduled to appear before a judge on September 20. If convicted, the defendants face maximum sentences of between 15 years and 75 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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Joris Evers

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