During September 2011, TorrentFreak was tipped off that IMAGiNE, one of the Internet’s leading BitTorrent release groups, had been busted by the authorities following an Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigation.
The year before IMAGiNE had launched their own private BitTorrent tracker that failed massively in its quest to stay under the radar. The site, UnleashTheNet (also known by its acronym UtN) attracted plenty of attention and it now appears it was the group’s Achilles’ heel.
As revealed by an indictment returned on April 18, 2012, and unsealed yesterday, four individuals have now been charged in the Eastern District of Virginia for their alleged roles in IMAGiNE.
Jeramiah Perkins, 39, of Portsmouth, Va., Gregory Cherwonik, 53, of New York, Willie Lambert, 57, of Pennsylvania, and Sean Lovelady, 27, of California, are all charged with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and two counts of criminal copyright infringement.
Perkins, Cherwonik and Lambert are charged with two additional counts of criminal copyright infringement, and Perkins and Cherwonik are charged with a sixth count of criminal copyright infringement of a work being prepared for commercial distribution.
The indictment lists several movie titles that were reproduced, distributed and seeded on BitTorrent prior to the U.S. DVD release data including “The Green Hornet,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” and “Yogi Bear.” All films carried the group’s “IMAGiNE” tag.
According to the announcement from Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil MacBride and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton, Perkins, Cherwonik and Lambert were arrested Monday. Lovelady reported to the authorities yesterday.
“These four defendants are charged with serious intellectual property crimes. Through IMAGiNE, they allegedly sought to become the leading source of pirated movies on the Internet,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer.
“This Justice Department, working with our partners at ICE, has made fighting intellectual property crime a top priority, and we will continue to bring cases against individuals and entities devoted to cheating consumers and undermining artistic pursuits.”
Given the claims in the indictment and how the group’s activities are being portrayed, the IMAGiNE defendants are in serious trouble. First, it quite rightly points out that between 2009 and September 2011, IMAGiNE obtained video and audio for the latest movies from different sources, combined them, and then released them online.
But then, presumably because of their involvement with the UtN tracker, they are blamed for the subsequent infringing actions of UtN members. According to the indictment the four are responsible for the reproduction and distribution of “tens of thousands of illegal copies of copyrighted works.”
The maximum prison sentence for conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and for each count of criminal copyright infringement is five years in prison. All four defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on May 9, 2012.
As reported by TorrentFreak last year, rumors persist that IMAGiNE were led to the slaughter by a rival group with a grudge.