Chinese man gets 12 years in US prison for software theft

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Chinese man gets 12 years in US prison for software theft

Oracle, Microsoft and SAP targeted.


A US federal judge on Tuesday sentenced a Chinese businessman to 12 years in prison for selling stolen software used in defence, space technology and engineering with a retail value of more than US$100 million, prosecutors said.

The US Attorney's Office for the District of Delaware said businessman Xiang Li, 36, would be deported to China pending his release from prison.

Li, of Chengdu, China, was arrested in June 2011, in an undercover sting by US Department of Homeland Security agents on the Pacific island of Saipan, an American territory near Guam.

Originally charged in a 46-count indictment, he pleaded guilty in January to single counts of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright violations and wire fraud. At the hearing, Li admitted that what he did was "wrong and illegal" and apologized to the court.

Assistant US Attorney Edward McAndrew did not immediately respond to a message late on Tuesday seeking comment on Li's sentencing.

Li stole the sophisticated software from an estimated 200 manufacturers and sold to 325 black market buyers in 61 countries from 2008 to 2011, prosecutors said.

US buyers in 28 states included a NASA engineer and the chief scientist for a defense and law-enforcement contractor, prosecutors said.

Corporate victims in the case included Microsoft Corp, Oracle Corp, Rockwell Automation Inc, Agilent Technologies Inc, Siemens AG, Delcam, Altera Corp and SAP AG, the government said.

US officials and Li's lawyer previously said the case was the first in which a businessman involved in pirating industrial software was lured from China by undercover agents and arrested.

The retail value of the business software products Li pirated ranged from several hundred dollars to more than US$1 million apiece. He sold them online for as little as US$20 to US$1,200 through his websites, according to government court filings.

At one point, Li's sites offered more than 2,000 pirated software titles, prosecutors said. Li trolled black market internet forums in search of hacked software, and people with the know-how to crack the passwords needed to run the program.

Then he advertised them for sale on his websites. Li transferred the pirated programs to customers by sending compressed files via Gmail, or sent them hyperlinks to download servers, officials said.

Government agents learned of Li's enterprise after an unidentified US manufacturer noticed his company's software for sale on one of Li's websites.

The investigation revealed that Li was part of a larger cybercrime organisation based in China, prosecutors said. Through emails sent to various customers, Xiang Li described himself as being part of "an international organisation created to crack" software, prosecutors said.

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