An outspoken founder of NinjaVideo, one of the first domains to be targeted in the ongoing Operation in Our Sites, was sentenced today for conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement. Hana Beshara, known online as Phara, will now spend 22 months in prison followed by 2 years of probation and 500 hours of community service. A source close to NinjaVideo told TorrentFreak that Hana’s lawyer “was happy” with the sentence.
Late June 2010, nine sites connected to unauthorized movie streaming were targeted by US law enforcement. NinjaVideo, at the time one of the Internet’s most popular video portals, was high on their list. The now-famous and ongoing Operation in Our Sites had officially begun.
Five people connected to NinjaVideo were arrested but it took until September 2011 for them to be indicted by a federal grand jury. One of those indicted was site co-founder Hana Beshara.
Later that month, Beshara – known online by her pseudonym Phara, and referred to by NinjaVideo members as their “Queen” – pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Beshara admitted her role in the founding of NinjaVideo during February 2008 and confessed to negotiating agreements with online advertisers. In total the site is said to have generated revenue and donations totaling around $500,000. Of this amount, Beshara admitted personally receiving around $200,000.
Today, 30-year-old Beshara was sentenced. For crimes of conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement, she was sentenced to 22 months in prison followed by 2 years probation and 500 hours of community service. She will have to repay the money she made from the site, a total of $209,826.95, and forfeit financial accounts and computer equipment.
“Hana’s lawyer was happy with the sentence,” a source close to NinjaVideo told TorrentFreak.
“Judge Trenga rarely gives the max penalty like some judges do. He was clearly unhappy with her being unremorseful but Hana does not separate her accomplishments in building the community with the crime,” the source added.
“Beshara had several character witness letters and made a statement to the court. The judge recognized that she is a capable, intelligent woman who created a high quality site.”
Last year, NinjaVideo co-founder and coder Matthew Smith (known online as Dead1ne) also pleaded guilty to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement and was due to be sentenced December 2011. A delay means the 23-year old will be sentenced at a later date.
Joshua David Evans (known online as Wadswerth), 34, of North Bend, Wash. previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of criminal copyright infringement relating to the release of the movie Iron Man 2 before its commercial premiere.
Jeremy Lynn Andrew (known online as htrdfrk), a 33-year-old of Eugene, Ore. pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy.
Justin A. Dedemko (known online as Afr1ka), 28, of Brooklyn, N.Y was responsible for uploading content to NinjaVideo and marketing the site. He previously admitted receiving just over $58,000 from site revenue and will pay restitution in that amount.
All face a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when they are sentenced in the coming months. Beshara’s relatively lenient sentence (considering the maximum available) is an indication that their sentences are likely to be no more than 2 years.
A fifth defendant in the case, Zoi Mertzanis of Greece, known online as “Tik”, is accused of being one the site’s most active uploaders. A warrant is outstanding for his arrest.