U.S. Department of Justice - CyberCrime.gov Archived

Copyright Cases - U.S. v. Breen (N.D. Cal.) (Operation Buccaneer)


February 10, 2004


U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Northern District of California
11th Floor, Federal Building
450 Golden Gate Avenue, Box 36055
San Francisco, California 94102
(415) 436-7200
Fax: (415) 436-7234

Leader of Oldest Game Piracy Group Gets 50-Month Prison Sentence

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California announced that Sean Michael Breen was sentenced today to 50 months in prison and three years of supervised release, for violating the criminal copyright laws as a member of the first computer game piracy ring on the Internet, and for defrauding Cisco Systems of hundreds of thousands of dollars of hardware. The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Saundra B. Armstrong following the defendant’s guilty pleas in July 2003 to two counts of copyright infringement in violation of Title 17, United States Code, Section 506(a) and Title 18, United States Code, Section 2319, and to three counts of mail fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341. Judge Armstrong also ordered Mr. Breen to pay restitution of $690,236.91 to Cisco Systems. He will begin serving his sentence on March 26, 2004. At the time of his guilty pleas, Mr. Breen, 38, of Richmond, California, admitted that he was a leader in the Internet-based piracy group known as Razor1911. Since the early 1990s, Razor 1911 had sought to achieve a reputation in the underground Internet piracy community . the so-called “warez scene” . as the leading distributor of cracked computer and console game software. The group prided itself on cracking and illegally distributing the most popular software games, usually before their public release date, including such games as Quake, Red Alert, Terminal Velocity, and Warcraft II and III. Group members known as “suppliers” often obtained pre-release versions of the game software from company insiders or by posing as game reviewers for bogus online magazines. Other group members known as “crackers” would defeat the copyright protections embedded in the game software before the group distributed it to Internet sites worldwide. Razor1911 concealed its illegal activities by using a variety of technologically sophisticated security measures. Members identified themselves online only by screen nickname, never by their full real name, and generally communicated about group business only in closed, invite-only IRC channels or encrypted e-mail; the groups’ Internet file transfer and storage sites (FTP sites), which contained tens of thousands of pirated software, game, movie, and music titles, were password-protected and secured by a combination of user ID and IP address authentication mechanisms. Mr. Breen’s 50-month sentence is the longest imposed to date of the more than 40 individuals worldwide targeted by Operation Buccaneer, a 14-month undercover investigation by the U.S. Customs Service (now U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) that represents the largest international copyright piracy investigation to date by law enforcement. In addition to targeting the leadership of Razor1911, Operation Buccaneer also dismantled the software piracy group known as DrinkOrDie, and netted members from a broad cross-section of other online piracy groups such as RiSC, RiSCiSO, Request To Send (RTS), WeLoveWarez (WLW), and POPZ. In a separate investigation by agents from the United States Secret Service, Mr. Breen also admitted that he had illegally used an online customer account of Cisco Systems to order hundreds of thousands of dollars of hardware by falsely posing as one of Cisco’s existing customers. Mr. Breen arranged to have the hardware delivered in separate shipments via Federal Express to “Comptel Logistics,” a shell company that had been created for the sole purpose of receiving the fraudulently obtained hardware. Mr. Breen and his business partner rented a storefront in Oakland to act as a business location for Comptel Logistics and to receive the hardware. After receiving the hardware, Mr. Breen sold it on the “grey market” at a heavy discount off of what the hardware would normally be sold at.

The prosecution was the result of an investigation by agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (formerly the U.S. Customs Service) and agents of the United States Secret Service. Jonathan Howden and Kyle Waldinger of the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) Unit are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who prosecuted the case with the assistance of Michael DuBose, Senior Counsel, Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), Department of Justice. A copy of this press release may be found on the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/can. Related court documents and information may be found on the District Court website at www.cand.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.cand.uscourts/gov. Additional information on Operation Buccaneer can be found at http://www.cybercrime.gov/OBMain.htm. All press inquiries to the U.S. Attorney’s Office should be directed to Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Sonderby, Chief of the CHIP Unit, at (408) 535-5037, or Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Jacobs at (415) 436-7181. All press inquiries to CCIPS should be directed to Michael O’Leary, Deputy Chief of CCIPS, at (202) 514-1026.  


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