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Counterfeit gang ends up behind bars

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A bunch of UK-based crooks who dared to cross Microsoft are today pondering their crimes behind bars. Donald Hodgson, Simon Buckley and Andrew Billington were imprisoned in April for four, seven and 12 months respectively. They were responsible for counterfeiting a whole range of software, including Office 97 professional, Windows 95 & 98, Encarta, BackOffice products and Microsoft games. An eighteen-month investigation by Surrey Trading Standards Officers and Microsoft turned up over 5000 CDs worth around £5.6 million. On Monday, the great software giant stuck again, with Norman Mockford sentenced to eight months and Christian Buxton getting 180 hours' community service for software piracy. All five were tried at Guildford Crown Court, and were believed to be involved in the same crime ring. Neil Gardiner, of Surrey Trading Standards, said such rulings were turning the tide against software pirates. This type of crime is normally punished by fines not prison sentences. David Gregory, Microsoft anti-piracy manager, said: "All too often organised crime has used software piracy to fund other areas of illegal activity because of the lucrative monetary gains and lax penalties." He said the message should be clear "that software theft is a crime" and that the authorities were cracking down. The UK loses over £400 million per year to software pirates, according to Microsoft. ®

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