Remaining co-founder of NinjaVideo.net pleads guilty to criminal copyright conspiracy
Site was seized during first phase of "Operation In Our Sites"
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WASHINGTON — A co-founder of NinjaVideo.net, a website that provided millions of users with the ability to illegally download infringing copies of copyright-protected movies and television programs in high-quality formats, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit copyright infringement. This investigation is being conducted by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center).
Justin A. Dedemko, 28, of Brooklyn, N.Y., pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga in the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia. Dedemko's fellow co-founders Matthew David Howard Smith and Hana Amal Beshara pleaded guilty on Sept. 23, 2011, and Sept. 29, 2011, respectively, to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement.
The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department's Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride, Eastern District of Virginia.
According to the statement of facts, during the early part of the conspiracy, Dedemko was responsible for locating infringing content on the Internet and uploading the infringing content to servers used by the NinjaVideo.net website, some of which were located in the Eastern District of Virginia. Later in the conspiracy, Dedemko focused on marketing, which included conversations with companies interested in placing advertisements on the NinjaVideo.net website.
According to the statement of facts, NinjaVideo generated a total of $505,000 in income from Internet advertising and visitor donations during the course of the conspiracy. Dedemko admitted that he personally received $58,004 of these funds, and agreed to pay restitution in that amount.
At sentencing, scheduled for Feb. 24, 2012, Dedemko faces a maximum penalty of five years.
Dedemko's guilty plea follows the guilty pleas of four of five co-conspirators indicted on Sept. 9, 2011. In addition to Smith and Beshara, Joshua David Evans, who served as one of NinjaVideo's main uploaders, pleaded guilty on Oct. 25, 2011, to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement. Jeremy Lynn Andrew, who served as head of security for NinjaVideo.net, also pleaded guilty on Oct. 25, 2011, to conspiracy. Sentencings will be held on Dec. 16, 2011, for Smith; Jan. 6, 2012, for Beshara; Jan. 27, 2012, for Evans; and Feb. 3, 2012, for Andrew. An arrest warrant has been issued for the last remaining indicted co-conspirator, Zoi Mertzanis of Greece, who also allegedly served as one of the website's main uploaders.
The investigation was conducted by the IPR Center. The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. This criminal investigation is part of the IPR Center's groundbreaking "Operation In Our Sites," which targets the online sale of counterfeit and pirated commodities. The IPR Center uses the expertise of its 19 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.
Last week, "Operation In Our Sites" received recognition by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). The IPR Center received an IACP Award for Excellence in Criminal Investigation for its work in targeting counterfeiting and piracy on the Internet. The award recognizes quality achievement and innovation in managing and conducting criminal investigations with the goal of sharing information to advance the art and science of criminal investigations.
To report IP theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.
This case is part of efforts being undertaken by the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force) to stop the theft of intellectual property. Attorney General Eric Holder created the IP Task Force to combat the growing number of domestic and international intellectual property crimes, protect the health and safety of American consumers, and safeguard the nation's economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work. The IP Task Force seeks to strengthen intellectual property rights protection through heightened criminal and civil enforcement, greater coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and increased focus on international enforcement efforts, including reinforcing relationships with key foreign partners and U.S. industry leaders.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jay V. Prabhu and Lindsay A. Kelly of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney Glenn Alexander of the Criminal Division's Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section.