(NEW YORK) — Federal prosecutors in New York announced criminal charges Wednesday against an international piracy ring that managed to steal and upload “nearly every movie released by major production studios” between 2011 and 2020.
According to the indictment, the “sophisticated and widespread” operation allegedly conducted by the Sparks Group caused “tens of millions of dollars in losses to film production studios.”
Three men were indicted as a result of the operation, ABC News has learned. Umar Ahmad, George Bridi and Jonatan Correa were charged with copyright infringement, while Bridi faced an additional charge of wire fraud.
Bridi was arrested Sunday in Cyprus, Correa was arrested Tuesday in Olathe, KS., and Ahmad, a Norwegian, remains at large.
Dozens of the Sparks Group’s servers were shut down, cutting off user access to the pirated material.
Prosecutors say the company fraudulently obtained DVD and Blu-ray discs from wholesale distributors before the titles’ release dates, and managed to crack the discs’ copyright protections before the Sparks Group copied and uploaded the shows and movies to its servers.
“This investigation shows — in high definition — that despite the online platform and international nature of this scheme, we are committed to stop those who use the cyber world for illicit gain,” said Peter Fitzhugh of Homeland Security Investigations.
By Stephen Iervolino
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