In 2011 the notorious IMAGiNE movie piracy group was dismantled by the FBI. The group had been releasing large numbers of movies onto the Internet, many of them still playing in theaters, and this had attracted the attention of the MPAA who launched an investigation.
Members of IMAGiNE were arrested and charged with with several counts of criminal copyright infringement, and one by one they have been receiving their sentences.
In November 2012, Sean Lovelady of California, a moderator with the group, received a 23 month sentence. In the same month Willie Lambert of Pennsylvania, an administrator, received a 30 month prison sentence.
An even tougher sentence was handed to 53-year-old group sysop Gregory Cherwonik of New York. He was jailed for 40 months by Virginia District Court Judge Arenda Allen and ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution to the MPAA.
At the time Cherwonik’s sentence appeared to be the harshest ever handed out in a case of this type, but court documents show that another IMAGiNE member, Brad Newell who “cammed” movies for the group, received a sentence of 48 months in 2010.
But even that hefty punishment was surpassed today with the sentencing of Jeramiah Perkins of Portsmouth, Va.
In the U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Perkins – a sysop with IMAGiNE – was sentenced to a record-breaking five years in federal prison and ordered to pay $15,000 restitution.
After his imprisonment ends Perkins will be subjected to a further three years of supervised release and will be banned from possessing “any electronic device with the capability or reproducing and distributing copies of copyrighted materials.”
Guidelines of between 70 and 87 months had mentioned in a December 2012 court memorandum. United States Attorney Neil MacBride eventually asked for 60 months, an amount matched precisely today.
“The nature and circumstances of defendant Perkins’ offense are serious, as he both organized and led the IMAGiNE Group – one of the largest and most effective organized copyright crime groups on the Internet,” MacBride wrote.
IMAGiNE as whole achieved their aim of being the group that first released many new movies on to the Internet, the attorney notes, and were responsible for 41% of all English language theatrical audio piracy from September 2009 to September 2011.
MacBride said that Perkins was responsible for establishing IMAGiNE’s BitTorrent tracker, Unleashthe.net, registering domain names for the group, and carrying out numerous technical tasks such as encoding and syncing. He was also responsible for opening PayPal accounts to receive donations from Unleashthenet members and selling advance copies of new releases to “outsiders” in order to generate funds to keep the group going.
“Simply stated, defendant Perkins not only led and served as the chief executive officer of the IMAGiNE Group on a day-to-day basis for well over a year, but also proactively and regularly participated in the many tasks that were essential to the Group’s criminal objective — to release a steady stream of infringing copies of motion pictures and other copyrighted works.”
The five year sentence handed down to Perkins should be a deterrent to others engaging in similar conduct, MacBride adds, noting that it is appropriately longer than the sentences handed to lower placed members of the group who all “received credit for substantially assisting the United States in the investigation and prosecution of others.”