A five-member international hacking crime ring stole more than 25,000 files for Hollywood movies and TV shows and illegally offered hundreds of them for sale online, according to U.S. law enforcement officials.
A federal grand jury in L.A. on Wednesday (Dec. 12) indicted five men, identified as residing in the U.K., India, Dubai and Malaysia, on seven criminal charges each for conduct alleged to span early 2013 to the spring of 2015.
U.S. investigators said the defendants allegedly stole or illegally copied copies of movies and TV shows including: “Fifty Shades of Grey” (pictured above), “The Expendables 3,” “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” “Godzilla,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “Horrible Bosses 2,” “The Walking Dead,” “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” They then offered to sell purloined titles prior to their official release or the same day as their U.S. theatrical release, according to the indictment.
All told, the five men allegedly stole more than 25,000 digital files, including feature films, trailers, TV episodes and audio tracks, which they stored on a server in France, according to U.S. officials. The crime ring also allegedly operated a website called “BollyTNT” used to distribute pirated Bollywood films.
To steal the files, the defendants hacked into the computer systems of Hollywood production companies, according to the indictment. They also illegally acquired copies of films through other means, including by recording theater screenings and by obtaining copies of movie screeners distribute to industry professionals, per the indictment.
The defendants are not in U.S. custody, officials said. According to federal prosecutors, the five are charged with conspiracy, computer hacking, and copyright violation — which each carry a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison — and aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory two-year sentence to run consecutive to any other sentence imposed in the case.
The defendants charged in the indictment are: Malik Luqman Farooq, 30, of the U.K., who was previously arrested by London police on related charges and is awaiting trial; Aditya Raj, believed to reside in India; Sam Nhance, believed to reside in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Ghobhirajah Selvarajah, believed to reside in Malaysia; and Jitesh Jadhav, also believed to be a resident of India.
The case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations with the assistance with the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit as well as cooperation from French and Canadian authorities.