Hana Beshara, one of the founders of the popular NinjaVideo movie and TV show streaming site, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement. Better known online by her pseudonym Phara and by site members as their “Queen”, Beshara will be sentenced in January and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each count.
Mid-2010, nine sites connected to movie streaming were targeted by the U.S. government. They included NinjaVideo.net, at the time one of the Internet’s most prominent video streaming sites.
This ‘first round’ in the ongoing “Operation in Our Sites” resulted in five people connected to NinjaVideo being indicted by a federal grand jury this month. One of those indicted was site co-founder Hana Beshara.
Yesterday, Beshara – who is better known online by her pseudonym Phara, and affectionately referred to by NinjaVideo members as their “Queen” – pleaded guilty to her role in the founding of NinjaVideo during 2008.
The guilty plea of the Las Vegas-residing 29-year-old was made before U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga in the Eastern District of Virginia. For crimes of conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement, Beshara faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each count.
According to court documents, Beshara admitted negotiating agreements with online advertisers and together with the other defendants receiving revenue and donations totalling some $500,000. Of this amount, Beshara admitted personally receiving $200,000.
“As part of her plea agreement, Beshara agreed to forfeit assets seized by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in June 2010, including cash, an investment brokerage account, two bank accounts, a Paypal account and one Internet advertising account,” reads a statement from the Department of Justice.
Online, Beshara was a larger-than-life character who attracted both praise and criticism for her colorful management style as the most public-facing administrator of NinjaVideo.
But with this profile came enemies and at least one site dedicated to revealing her real identity. When photographs and details of her personal life appeared on the Internet in 2009, it was a question of when, not if, the site would eventually be brought down.
Beshara’s guilty plea follows that of co-defendant 23-year-old Matthew Smith, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement last week.
Smith will be sentenced 16th December and the remaining three defendants will face a jury trial beginning 6th February 2012.
Beshara will be sentencd 6th January 2012, where she faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each count.