The Department of Justice announced Wednesday it has reached plea agreements with six people charged in a multiyear fraud racket that dealt in thousands of copies of Adobe and Microsoft programs, with sales of legitimate registration codes and certificates of authenticity as part of the dealings.
Additionally, due to the depth of this piracy ring, customers shopping for such software through reputable sites may still have ended up purchasing the defendants’ unauthorized merchandise.
The investigation was known as Operation Software Slashers.
“An investigation that began in Kansas City, Mo., uncovered one of the largest software piracy schemes ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice,” said U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson, “Investigators seized more than $20 million in assets from conspirators who are estimated to have sold in excess of $100 million worth of illicit, unauthorized and counterfeit software products to thousands of online customers.”
The international scheme connected abettors operating across the U.S., into Singapore, Germany, and the People’s Republic of China. Microsoft Corporation and Adobe Systems software product key codes, worth millions of dollars, were channeled through online businesses and a charitable organization, distributing more than 170,000 product activation key codes, some of which had been previously used on several occasions.
The assets of those charged were also seized, including investments accounts, real estate, and luxury vehicles with a combined value of over $20 million dollars. The six defendants reportedly made $30 million in profits of the sales of software totaling $100 million dollars.
The machinations of those involved were wide in range. One of those charged, Reza Davachi, 41, of Damascus, Maryland, has admitted to paying a counterfeiter within the People’s Republic of China over $672,000 for illegal product key codes and forged product key cards. Using a charitable organization dubbed “Project Contact Africa,” Davachi confessed to selling counterfeit and illicit software through the charity’s eBay account, while using the Project Contact Africa PayPal account to expedite payments—taking in close to $12 million dollars while costing eBay and PayPal almost a million in lost fees, waived to encourage charitable contributions.
Casey Lee Ross, 29, of Kansas City, also admitted involvement. According to Ross, he purchased and reallocated more than 30,000 unauthorized and counterfeit Microsoft product key codes from sources in China—and moved many of the key codes through such legitimate companies as Amazon and eBay.
According to a 2012 article in PCMag, Adobe and Microsoft software titles are among the most pirated applications available.
For more about Operation Software Slashers, visit The U.S. Department of Justice website.