Guilty plea to software theft

Erik Saracino (left), Office of Inspector General, and John Morton, Immigration and Customs, discuss the case.
Erik Saracino (left), Office of Inspector General, and John Morton, Immigration and Customs, discuss the case. (AP)
Posted: January 10, 2013

A Chinese national pleaded guilty to U.S. charges that he sold pirated software from American companies, including Agilent Technologies Inc.

Xiang Li, 36, admitted Monday in federal court in Wilmington to one count each of conspiring to commit criminal copyright infringement and conspiring to commit wire fraud, according to court records. The case was handled by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations unit.

"Li mistakenly thought he was safe from the long arm of HSI, hiding halfway around the world in cyberspace anonymity," ICE Director John Morton said in a statement Tuesday with U.S. Attorney Charles Oberly in Wilmington.

Li and his wife, of Chengdu, China, were accused of running a website called "Crack 99" that sold copies of software for which "access-control mechanisms" had been circumvented, the United States said in April when a 46-count indictment against them was unsealed. The pair were charged with distributing more than 500 pirated copyrighted works to more than 300 purchasers in the United States and overseas from April 2008 to June 2011.

Prosecutors said the retail value of the pirated software products was more than $100 million, according to a court filing on Friday.

Li faces as much as 25 years in prison at his sentencing, which is set for May 3 before U.S. District Judge Leonard Stark.

Mingli Chen, a lawyer representing Li, said in a phone interview that Li already had spent 11/2 years incarcerated and that he would ask the judge to find that his client has served enough time in prison. He also said the judge may impose a prison term of five to eight years.

Chen said the government also agreed to dismiss all charges against Li's wife, Chun Yan Li, who Chen said is in China.

The software includes programs made by Santa Clara, Calif.-based Agilent and Canonsburg, Pa.-based Ansys Inc., according to the indictment.

Xiang Li's websites listed prices of $20 to $1,200 for products with retail values of several hundred dollars to $3 million, according to the government.

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