In 2011 the notorious IMAGiNE movie piracy release group was dismantled by U.S. authorities after releasing large numbers of movies onto the Internet, many of them still playing in theaters.
Since then, slowly but surely IMAGiNE members have been charged with criminal copyright infringement and given sentences ranging from 23 months in prison up to an unprecedented five years.
Yesterday, 41-year-old Javier E. Ferrer, an IMAGiNE founder, was also brought to justice.
Ferrer’s downfall began on September 8th 2011 when Homeland Security Investigations agents raided his Florida home, seizing computers, cellphones and other evidence.
During the search Ferrer appears to have co-operated. Waiving his rights he said he had knowledge of IMAGiNE’s torrent site UnleashTheNet and admitted paying for a group server in France. Ferrer also revealed he had cammed movies at the Palm Harbor Movie Theater.
Court documents further reveal that the 41-year-old admitted to using the nickname “bigdaddykane” which HSI agents matched with a user of the same name on the UnleashTheNet forums.
That user was indeed Ferrer and on several occasions he had been seen discussing the camming of movies. During November 2010, Ferrer responded to a question asking him where he illegally recorded movies to which he answered that he had “done several already but I won’t give away the place.”
In January 2011, Ferrer was again making things worse for himself on the site’s forum, giving advice on how to hide a camcorder by putting it “inside a black sock with a hole at the end to let the lens out.”
Ferrer later admitted to being part of IMAGiNE between April 2010 and September 2011 and accepted that he had knowingly conspired to infringe copyright for private financial gain. He pleaded guilty to willfully infringing copyrights by distributing at least one copy of a copyrighted work being prepared for commercial distribution by making it available on a computer network accessible to the public.
The movies cammed and uploaded included Captain America: The First Avenger and Fright Night. Ferrer also admitted to being involved in selling early copies of movies to generate funds to pay for IMAGiNE’s servers in France. Copies of The Town, The Social Network and Fright Night were sold for $300, $400 and $200 respectively.
In September 2012, United States Attorney Neil H. MacBride filed charges in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against Ferrer. In common with other members of IMAGiNE, Ferrer stood accused of Conspiracy to Commit Copyright Infringement. He pleaded guilty.
Ferrar was sentenced yesterday by Senior U.S. District Judge Henry C. Morgan in the Eastern District of Virginia. In addition to his 23 month prison term, Ferrer was sentenced to three years supervised release and ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution.
He is the fifth member of the group to be sentenced. In November 2012, Sean Lovelady of California, a site moderator, received a 23 month sentence and in the same month Willie Lambert of Pennsylvania, an administrator, received a 30 month prison sentence.
Later, 53-year-old group sysop Gregory Cherwonik of New York was jailed for 40 months. In 2010, Brad Newell, a cammer for the group, received a sentence of 48 months.
In January 2013, Jeramiah B. Perkins, the leader of IMAGiNE, was sentenced to 60 months in prison, the harshest sentence in history for a file-sharing offense.