Ukrainian sentenced to 35 months for software piracy

A 28-year-old Ukrainian man, Maksym Vysochanskyy, was sentenced late Monday in federal court in San Jose to 35 months in prison for his role in selling pirated copies of software from Adobe Systems, Autodesk, Borland Software and Microsoft through Web sites he operated and on eBay, according to Kevin Ryan, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California.

Vysochanskyy in November pleaded guilty to charges of criminal copyright infringement, trafficking in counterfeit goods and prohibited monetary transactions -- all stemming from his global distribution of counterfeit computer software over the Internet between December 2000 and May 2003, Ryan said in a statement. The case is one of the first in the nation to involve an extradition in a prosecution alleging intellectual property offenses, he said.

In 2003, Vysochanskyy was arrested in Thailand on a provisional warrant by the Royal Thai Police with the assistance of law enforcement agents from the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Vyschanskyy's overseas arrest was made possible when U.S. agents, monitoring his e-mail traffic, observed him make plans to travel to Thailand from Ukraine. The agents then flew to Bangkok to meet him, and after contested proceedings, Vysochanskyy was extradited in March 2004 to San Jose to face federal charges.

He has been held in custody as a flight risk since his arrived in the United States.

"This ground-breaking case demonstrates the resolve ... to combat the theft of the nation's intellectual property, whether the threat arises at home or from abroad," Ryan said in the statement. "It also serves as an example to individuals abroad who seek to profit from the theft of our nation's intellectual property that the Department of Justice will vigorously seek their extradition to the United States...."

According to the plea agreement and court records, Vysochanskyy sold counterfeit software on eBay and on numerous Web sites, including cdservice.org, bigcds.net and gold-cds.com, Ryan said. Under the plea agreement, Vysochanskyy admitted that he conducted most of the activity from Ukraine.

To field and respond to purchase orders for software programs, Vysochanskyy created online aliases, such as "Patricia Brekles" and "Kevin McGuigan," Ryan said. Vysochanskyy communicated using Web-based e-mail accounts, an e-mail account from a California-based educational company and a remote e-mail application to further disguise his identity, the U.S. attorney said.

To receive payment for the counterfeit software, Vysochanskyy relied on intermediaries in the United States and elsewhere as well as online payment processors to forward him funds -- including more than US$20,000 sent to him via wire transfers to a bank account in Lithuania, Ryan said.

Vysochanskyy was already in custody and will begin serving his sentence immediately.

The prosecution follows a two-year investigation by agents from the San Francisco Electronic Crimes Task Force, which includes agents from the Secret Service, the Postal Inspection Service and the criminal investigation unit of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, Ryan said. The U.S. Embassy in Thailand and the authorities in that nation, including the Royal Thai Police, collaborated in Vysochanskyy's capture and extradition. Authorities from Canada, Lithuania and Ukraine also took part in the investigation, Ryan said.

The investigation was overseen by the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) Unit of the United States Attorney's Office.

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