The leader of one of the oldest and most infamous Internet software piracy groups was sentenced today to 51 months in prison on one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg for the Eastern District of Virginia announced today.
In one of the first ever extraditions for an intellectual property offense, Hew Raymond Griffiths, a British national living in Bateau Bay, Australia, was brought to the United States in February 2007 to face criminal charges in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. He pleaded guilty in April. Prior to his arrival in the United States, he had spent nearly three years incarcerated at a detention center in Australia while fighting his extradition in Australian court.
"From his home in Australia, Griffiths became one of the most notorious leaders of the underground Internet piracy community by orchestrating the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars in copyrighted material," said Fisher. "The Justice Department is committed to protecting intellectual property rights, and will pursue those who commit such crimes beyond the borders of the United States where necessary."
"Whether committed with a gun or a keyboard -- theft is theft," said U.S. Attorney Rosenberg. "And, for those inclined to steal Intellectual Property here, or from half-way around the world, they are on notice that we can and will reach them."
Griffiths was a leader of an organized criminal group known as DrinkOrDie, which had a reputation as one of the oldest and most security-conscious piracy groups on the Internet. The group was dismantled by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as part of Operation Buccaneer in December 2001, with more than 70 raids conducted in the U.S. and five foreign countries, including the United Kingdom, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Australia. Prior to its dismantling, DrinkOrDie was estimated to have caused the illegal reproduction and distribution of more than $50 million worth of pirated software, movies, games and music.
Griffiths, known by the screen nickname "Bandido," was a longtime leader of DrinkOrDie and an elder in the highest echelons of the underground Internet piracy community, also known as the warez scene. In an interview published in December 1999 by an online news source, Griffiths boasted that even though he ran all of DrinkOrDie's day-to-day operations and controlled access to more than 20 of the top warez servers worldwide, he would never be caught.