Operation Site Down

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Operation Site Down is the umbrella name for a law enforcement initiative conducted by the FBI and law enforcement agents from ten other countries which resulted in a raid on targets on June 29, 2005. Three separate undercover investigations were involved, based in Chicago (Operation Jolly Roger), Charlotte and San Jose (Operation Copycat). The raid consisted of approximately 70 searches in the United States and approximately 20 others in ten other countries in an effort to disrupt and dismantle many of the leading warez groups which distribute and trade in copyrighted software, movies, music and games on the Internet.[1][2]

On February 1, 2006, the U.S. Attorney's Office under Patrick Fitzgerald announced that it was indicting nineteen members of Risciso, a software and movie piracy ring, in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The lead prosecutor for the government in this case was Assistant U.S. Attorney Pravin Rao.[3][4]

Up to May 6, 2008, there had been over 40 convictions as a result of the ongoing investigation. As part of each plea agreement, each defendant has agreed to forfeit the equipment that was seized during the federal search warrants executed on June 29, 2005. The current[when?] tally is:

  • 118 computers;
  • 13 laptops;
  • 4,567 infringed CDs and DVDs;
  • 413 VHS tapes and floppies;
  • 28 keyboards and monitors;
  • 5 digital cameras;
  • 28 PlayStations and Xboxes;
  • 7 computer towers; and
  • 1 plasma TV, cell phones, speakers, an MP3 player, and a DSL modem.

Operation Site Down has primarily targeted ISO (movies and software) groups. TV, 0-day, and MP3 groups seem relatively unaffected.[citation needed]

Summary[edit]

The San Jose-based undercover investigation proceeded as follows:

  • An FBI undercover agent, who went by the alias griffen, created two California Gigabit Top Sites (located at Hurricane Electric): LAD and CHUD
  • Chirayu Patel (nebula), a member of Boozers, becomes a SiteOp on LAD and CHUD which are both hosted in Fremont, CA (which is where Patel resides).
  • Patel, through his friends and sources, acquired major groups affiliates such as Centropy and TDA (The Divine Alcoholics) to the two fed topsites.
  • Over the two years that both LAD and CHUD were online, the FBI collected IPs of some of the top piracy providers.
  • FBI was able to get Patel's address because he sent griffen some motorcycle stunt DVDs via mail and gave his return address on the envelope
  • Centropy leader, who went by the alias of both 'marvel' and 'cartel,' was arrested in Indiana.
  • The Centropy Herbie release was on the server pre'd, meaning that even though the Herbie release was released a day after the raids, it had already been available on topsites.

Groups/sites affected[edit]

Affected warez groups include:

  • RiSCiSO / -iSO (iso utils)
  • Myth (PC-game rips)
  • TDA (iso utils)
  • LND (iso industry utils, e.g. CAD/CAM)
  • GFZ (courier group- US/KR iso division)
  • HOODLUM (PC-game iso)
  • VENGEANCE (PC-game iso)
  • Centropy (vcd, svcd and dvdr movies)
  • WastedTime (vcd movies)
  • Alec's Game Copying Service (PC Games, PS2)
  • ThP (divx, TV-dvdr and dvdr movies)
  • Corrupt (dvdr movies)
  • GAMERZ (ps2/Xbox games iso)
  • ADMITONE (vcd movies)
  • HELLBOUND (dvdr movies, TV-dvdr, classic dvdr)
  • KGS (vcd movies)
  • BBX (anime dvdr)
  • KHG (anime dvdr)
  • NOX (vcd movies)
  • NFR (svcd movies)
  • CDZ (ps2/Xbox games iso)
  • TUN (vcd movies)
  • BHP (TV-dvdr and dvdr movies)
  • MACiSO (RiSCiSO /OSX iso games and utils division )
  • DVDiSO (RiSCiSO / classic movies division)

Affected warez sites include:

  • RM1 and RM2 (RiSCiSO Main / RM2 link provided by Chicago FBI)
  • LAD (West-coast US, hardware/link provided by undercover agents)
  • CHUD (West-coast US, hardware/link provided by undercover agents)
  • SC (West-coast US, link provided by undercover agents)
  • VS (West-coast US, link provided by undercover agents)
  • RSN (Netherlands, busted?)
  • TNA (California, busted?)
  • BB (California, busted?)
  • TWH (Netherlands, busted?)
  • TEN (Eastcoast, US)
  • LW (Lithuania, busted?)

While few arrests had been made by the time of the first press releases, repercussions ran deep in the warez scene. Countless sites closed as a direct response to the busts, and many active scene members went into hiding.[citation needed]

Arrest locations[edit]

Countries

Sentences[edit]

Mark G. Carter II (a.k.a. Burner), 29, of Upland, California, was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment, and ordered to pay $34,964 in restitution. Judge Whyte also sentenced the defendant to a three-year period of supervised release. On December 12, 2005, Carter pleaded guilty to one count of violating the NET Act and to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. The defendant began serving the sentence on October 26, 2006.

Ryan Zeman, 23, of Rohnert Park, California, was sentenced to three years probation, four months home confinement, four months community confinement, and required to pay $120,000 in restitution. On October 3, 2005, Zeman pleaded guilty to violating the NET Act, 17 U.S.C. § 506(a)(1)(B) and 18 U.S.C. § 2319(c)(1), and aiding and abetting.

Gregory Dickman, 25, of Wilmington, North Carolina, was sentenced to 8 months home confinement, three years of probation and ordered to pay $31,515 in restitution. On April 10, 2006, Dickman pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit criminal copyright infringement in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 and to violating the NET Act, 17 U.S.C. § 506(a)(1)(B) and 18 U.S.C. § 2319(c)(1), and aiding and abetting.

Johnny Russell, 34, of Spring, Texas, was sentenced to 8 months in a community confinement facility, three years of probation, and ordered to pay a $11,508 in restitution. On April 10, 2006, Russell pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit criminal copyright infringement in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 and to violating the NET Act, 17 U.S.C. § 506(a)(1)(B) and 18 U.S.C. § 2319(c)(1), and aiding and abetting.

Similarities to The Scene miniseries[edit]

An online film series titled The Scene is a fictional take on the actual piracy scene. Some claims have been made that there are coincidences between the series and actual events.

The main character is Brian Sandro, an NYU student, who also pirates Hollywood movies in his spare time. Sandro heads the movie release group, CPX.

In episode nine, released in the beginning of June 2005, Sandro, whose IRC alias is Drosan, is messaged by a member named Gryffin. Gryffin was earlier looking for members of CPX in a different IRC channel. Gryffin's friend's father apparently works at a film studio and Gryffin is asking to be a supplier to CPX. The Gryffin character in the scene comes off as a little mysterious, but otherwise harmless.

However, it was pointed out that his name is similar to the nickname of the actual lead FBI agent, Griffen, responsible for the busts in Operation Site Down. Also, in the messaging session between Drosan and Gryffin, the music playing in the background periodically says "He works for the FBI" in a trancelike fashion.

Jun Productions, the creators of The Scene, deny all accounts that they had insider information about the arrests and that the similarities are only coincidences.

However, according to a Slyck posting,[5] Gryffin the character and Griffen the FBI agent shared the same BNC the.yankees-suck.net. The vhost resolves to Hurricane Electric, which is the location of the two Fed topsites: CHUD and LAD.

Furthermore, Bruce Forrest, who was quoted in a Wired article[6] as a self-proclaimed "double agent", was an active correspondent for The Scene series. While Jun Productions claim that Forrest had no involvement in the ninth episode (he supposedly left on his own terms after the eighth episode), some speculate that it could have been an elaborate warning by Forrest about the impending Federal arrests.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Soat, John (2005-07-04). "Internet Back Alleys: Warez, Porn, Etc.". Informationweek (1046): 63–63. ISSN 8750-6874. 
  2. ^ Gross, Grant (2005-07-01). "FBI cracks down on 'warez' piracy sites". Computerworld. Retrieved 2012-03-06. 
  3. ^ Associated Press (2006-02-01). "19 Indicted in Software Piracy Plot". CBS News. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  4. ^ "19 Indicted in $6.5 million "RISCISO" Software Piracy Conspiracy" (PDF) (Press release). United States Department of Justice. 2006-09-01. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  5. ^ "Welcome to the Scene - Coincidence or Conspiracy?". Retrieved 3 November 2010. 
  6. ^ Howe, Jeff (January 2005). "The Shadow Internet". Wired.com. Retrieved 3 November 2010. 

External links[edit]