A computer software piracy importing chain has apparently been broken, with one of its members sentenced last week to serve nine years in prison.
Lisa Chen of California was arrested in November 2001 along with three others, and charged with importing $98 million in counterfeit computer parts and pirated software from Taiwan into the U.S. As part of her 9-year sentence, Chen was also ordered by the court to pay a total of $11 million to Symantec and Microsoft as restitution for piracy of their software products. U.S. Customs agents reportedly discovered the piracy ring when they intercepted questionable looking shipments and documentation; they then unearthed nearly 100,000 counterfeited items, including bootleg copies of Windows XP, Windows 2000NT and Microsoft Office 2000 Pro software. This led the District Attorney's office to investigate Chen's banking transactions and records, which traced money wire transfers to Chen and records linking her as early as 1998 to the receipt and storage of counterfeit computer hardware and software after it arrived in the U.S. This is allegedly the most severe prison sentence ever for a first-time software piracy felon.
The sentence was defended by the D.A.'s office, as well as by Microsoft and Symantec. "The counterfeit seized in this investigation was high quality," quipped Pat Mueller, Senior Investigator with Microsoft. "It takes tremendous technical capability to do this. We think that she is a major player in a worldwide organization."