Chinese national jailed for 12 years in US for US$100 million software piracy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 June, 2013, 1:13pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 June, 2013, 6:56am

A Chinese national has been sentenced to 12 years in a US prison for selling more than US$100 million worth of software pirated from American companies from his home in Chengdu .

Li Xiang, 36, was sentenced yesterday in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, after pleading guilty to copyright and wire fraud conspiracy charges in connection with software sales from his China-based website, prosecutors said in a release.

American agents posed as potential business partners and lured him from the mainland onto US territory to arrest him.

Li and his wife were accused of running a website called "Crack 99" that sold copies of software for which "access-control mechanisms" had been circumvented, the US said in an unsealed 46-count indictment. The pair were charged with distributing more than 500 copyrighted works to more than 300 buyers in the US and overseas from April 2008 to June 2011. The retail value of the products was more than US$100 million, the government said.

Li is the first Chinese citizen to be "apprehended and prosecuted in the US for cybercrimes he engaged in entirely from China", prosecutors said in court filings.

"It was hard for me to accept that Mr Li deserved" a 12-year sentence, Li's lawyer, Chen Mingli, said in a telephone interview.

Li was arrested by federal agents in June 2011 in Saipan, an island about 193 kilometres northeast of Guam in the western Pacific Ocean. He agreed to travel there from his mainland home to deliver pirated software and 20 gigabytes of proprietary data from a US software company to agents posing as businessmen.

The pirated software included programs made by Santa Clara, California-based Agilent and Canonsburg, Pennsylvania-based Ansys, prosecutors said.

Li Xiang's websites listed prices of US$20 to US$1,200 for products with retail values of several hundred dollars to US$3 million, according to the government. He engaged in more than 700 sales of pirated software, prosecutors contended.