Pirate Android App ‘Store’ Member Jailed For 46 Months

A unique FBI operation carried out four years ago targeted several pirate Android app marketplaces, seizing their domains and arresting their operators. This month saw the first conviction, with SnappzMarket's 'PR manager' Scott Walton receiving a 46-month prison sentence for conspiracy to commit copyright infringement.

snappzAssisted by police in France and the Netherlands, the FBI took down the “pirate” Android stores Appbucket, Applanet and SnappzMarket during the summer of 2012.

The domain seizures were the first ever against “rogue” mobile app marketplaces and followed similar actions against BitTorrent and streaming sites.

During the years that followed several people connected to the Android app sites were arrested and indicted, but progress has been slow. Today, we can report on what we believe to be the first sentencing in these cases.

Earlier this month, Scott Walton of Lovejoy, Georgia, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and sentenced to 46 months in prison.

The sentence hasn’t been announced publicly by the Department of Justice, but paperwork (pdf) obtained by TorrentFreak confirms that it was handed down by Georgia District Court Judge Timothy Batten.

The Judgement

walton

According to the prosecution, one of Walton’s primary tasks was to manage public relations for SnappzMarket.

“In this role, defendant Walton monitored the Facebook fan page for SnappzMarket, provided responses to support inquiries, developed new ideas for SnappzMarket, and assisted with finding solutions to technical problems,” the indictment reads.

“In addition, defendant Walton searched for and downloaded copies of copyrighted apps, burned those copies to digital media such as compact discs, and mailed them to defendant Gary Edwin Sharp.”

The sentencing itself doesn’t come as a surprise, but it took a long time to be finalized.

Together with several co-defendants, Walton had already pleaded guilty two years ago, when he admitted to being involved in the illegal copying and distribution of more than a million pirated Android apps with a retail value of $1.7 million.

Before sentencing, Walton’s attorney Jeffrey Berhold urged the court to minimize the sentence. Citing letters from family and friends, he noted that his client can be of great value to the community.

“The Court can make this world a better place by releasing Scott Walton sooner rather than later,” Berhold wrote.

Whether these pleas helped is unknown. The 46-month sentence is short of the five years maximum, but it remains a very long time.

Initially, Walton was able to await his sentencing as a free man, but last year he was incarcerated after violating his pretrial release conditions. This means that he has already served part of his sentence.

The two other SnappzMarket members who were indicted, Joshua Ryan Taylor and Gary Edwin Sharp, are expected to be sentenced later this year. The same is true for co-conspirator Kody Jon Peterson.

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