Businessman pleads guilty to $100 million software theft

Businessman Xiang Li of Chengdu, China, admitted to multiple acts of technology theft in a US court on Monday. The defendant was first arrested in June 2011 for stealing software from an estimated 200 American companies, which was then sold to 325 black market vendors operating in 61 countries during 2008 to 2011, details a court filing.

The list of corporate victims includes Microsoft, Oracle, Rockwell Automation, Agilent Technologies, Siemens, Delcam, Altera Corp and SAP. Hacked software variants pertaining to fields such as engineering, defence and space aviation were obtained from internet forums and then resold for prices ranging from $20 (£12.43) to $1,200 (£745.94) with the crime only coming to light after an affected manufacturer became aware of its software being sold at a discounted price on the defendant’s website, crack99.com.

US prosecutors noted that Xiang Li’s arrest was the first piracy arrest to be accomplished via an 18-month undercover sting. The defendant, then 36, was duped into visiting the American territory of Saipan where he was captured by US authorities and charged with a 46-count indictment. The guilty plea follows a reduction of charges to single counts of wire fraud and copyright infringement.

"I want to tell the court that what I did was wrong and illegal and I want to say I'm sorry," said Li during a federal court hearing.

Li’s lawyer Mingli Chen reasoned that his client's obliviousness to the severity of his crimes provided an explanation for his repeated acts of piracy.

"He was pretty proud of himself," Chen explained.

"He did not realise it was such a big crime."

Image credit: Flickr(spaceninja)