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Software Pirate Found Guilty of Stealing $100 Million in Goods

Chinese national Xiang Li has pled guilty in U.S. federal court to pirating, cracking and selling software worth more than $100 million.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security arrested Li during June of 2011 after agents discovered he was leading a pirating ring that sold stolen software on the internet.

The software, which was predominately utilized by defense, space, and engineering companies, belonged to several technology firms including Microsoft, Oracle, Rockwell Automation, Agilent Technologies, Siemens, among hundreds of others.

"Li thought he was safe from the long arm of U.S. law enforcement, hiding halfway around the world in cyberspace anonymity. He was sorely mistaken," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Director John Morton had said during 2012. "Whether in China or cyberspace, this arrest is proof that Homeland Security Investigations and our partners at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center are committed to identifying, infiltrating and disrupting these criminal enterprises wherever they exist."

Li stole the software from around 200 U.S. manufacturers, subsequently selling them in 61 different countries on websites owned by the software pirate, including crack99.com. He ran the piracy ring from 2008 to 2011.

Although he had sold it for considerably less, prosecutors said the retail value of what Li stole equaled more than $100 million. U.S. agents worked undercover for 18 months in order to catch Li; they purchased thousands of dollars of software from him, which had an equivalent value of $150,000.

Under the premise of a joint illegal business venture, agents arrested Li by arranging to meet with him in the island of Saipan. He was initially charged with 46 criminal counts; however, he ultimately plead guilty to two single counts of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright violations and wire fraud.

Either way, Li, who is scheduled to be sentenced on May 3, faces up to 20 years in federal prison, as well as a $500,000 fine. Elsewhere, an illegal file-sharer in the U.S. was recently handed a record prison sentence: 5 years.