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Pirate CD 'kingpins' cop a plea

Latino music and Symantec counterfeit operation busted

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A pair of California men pleaded guilty this week to what prosecutors describe as the largest CD manufacturing piracy scheme ever uncovered in the US. Ye Teng Wen (AKA Michael Wen), 29 and Hao He (AKA Kevin He), 30, both of Union City, California admitted the mass production of nearly 200,000 pirated music and software CDs. The dynamic duo each confessed to five criminal counts including criminal copyright infringement and trafficking in counterfeit labels as part of a plea-bargaining agreement.

Ye and Hao were arrested after agents seized 500,000 pirated music, software, and movie CDs, and DVD and more than 5,500 stampers during raids of 13 locations in California and Texas as part of Operation Remaster last October. Many of the counterfeit software CDs the pair produced included counterfeit anti-piracy seals and artwork to make the goods appear genuine. Latino artists and Symantec security software were the principal targets of the pair's criminal activities.

In a plea agreement, the defendants admitted that between September 2004 until they were busted in October 2005, they used replication and silk screening machines at Media Art Technology, in Hayward and Union City, California, for the mass reproduction of copyrighted software and music. Technology, which has been seized, allowed them to turn their software counterfeiting business into a mass production enterprise. Ye and Hao admitted to serving as manufacturers in a much larger criminal conspiracy involving brokers, replicators, assemblers, packagers, printers, distributors and retailers across the US.

Ye and Hao each face up to five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine on each count at a sentencing hearing before US District Judge Ronald Whyte on 16 October. A third defendant, Yaobin Zhai, 33, of Fremont, California is due to be summoned into court to answer similar charges on 22 May. ®

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