At the end of July 2011, the admin of XtremeSpeeds.net, a private BitTorrent tracker, reported that his house had been raided by the authorities. He said that he was questioned under suspicion of being part of IMAGiNE, one of the leading P2P release groups.
Although the XS admin denied begin connected, he did admit renting out a server to “a guy who rented it out,” a suggestion that he perhaps had suspicions about potential connections, intended or otherwise.
XtremeSpeeds then disappeared completely and a promised August update from the site’s admin never materialized. What followed was an information black-hole, a common feature of ongoing piracy investigations where authorities aren’t yet ready to shout about their achievements and lawyers advise their clients to keep their mouths shut.
Now the rumor mill is turning again. According to reports, IMAGiNE – one of the P2P scene’s most prominent release groups – have been busted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The reports, which have proven impossible to confirm from any official source at this stage, state up to nine arrests.
Last year, IMAGiNE launched their own “secret” private BitTorrent tracker that remained under the radar for roughly 10 minutes. The site, UnleashTheNet, also known by its acronym UtN, was hosted in Canada but in the last few days it simply disappeared.
This morning TorrentFreak spoke with the site’s host who informed us that they haven’t heard anything about any raids or arrests. A traceroute timed-out at the site’s IP address.
However, there is one person who claims to know the details of IMAGiNE’s fate and he spoke with us just a few hours ago. So, has IMAGiNE really been busted?
“Yep,” says DiGiTALiNK, founder of P2P release group EP1C. “ICE joint operation got them.”
In an email to TorrentFreak, DiGiTALiNK went on to say that 9 people were arrested including IMAGiNE members Spunky, HoD, Jason, Tank, TheStash and Spangy, all of them within the United States. [See update below]
If these words do indeed turn out to be true, this latest development marks yet another event in a turbulent few months for EP1C, IMAGiNE, and associated sites and individuals.
In June this year, IMAGiNE published a warning on their site which declared that EP1C members had been banned and that anyone inviting them back would share their fate. It was claimed that DiGiTALiNK, EP1C’s founder, had “turned in one if not more of his members to the feds” and that a private FTP site of his was being watched by the authorities.
In the hugely political world of private trackers, claims like this are not unusual. In many file-sharing circles paranoia reigns supreme but, as they say, just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.
When EP1C’s DiGiTALiNK delivered his response to IMAGiNE’s claims, the focus was on escalating the conflict.
“They crossed paths with the wrong person, they lie, cheat, steal and have a fake identity to make people think they care about there [sic] safety, but in fact many of there [sic] source providers have been busted because they have no regard for your safety, only want the fame of that release,” the response began.
“Within the next few releases I will be providing proof of all this to the public and including all there [sic] personal identification information.. haha if I was a snitch they would have already been busted. IMAGiNE, are [expletives removed].”
Immediately some details related to the identity of one IMAGiNE member were released followed by the locations of others along with the words: “Get ready for a War.”
But those hoping to learn more from future EP1C revelations would be left disappointed. EP1C made their final releases on June 14th and 15th, dates which to within a week coincided with the accusations made by IMAGiNE.
TorrentFreak pointed out the history of bad-blood between EP1C and IMAGiNE to DiGiTALiNK and asked if he had a comment. We also asked how he came by the more specific details of the alleged arrests. At the time of publication we’re yet to receive a response.
After making releases of high-profile movies every few days for the last few months, last week on September 9th IMAGiNE made their most recent release – The.Guard.2011.DVDSCR.XViD.AC3-IMAGiNE. Nothing has been heard from them since.
The group did not respond to correspondence sent to a secure account so only time will tell if this release turns out to be their last.
Update: Fresh sources confirm that four people were visited by ICE