NinjaVideo illegal downloading site operators indicted: ICE

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 09, 2011 4:54 PM
NinjaVideo illegal downloading site operators indicted: ICE

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal grand jury has indicted five individuals involved with the website NinaVideo.net with conspiracy and copyright infringement, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said on Friday.

The site provided millions the ability to illegally download high-quality, copyrighted movies and television programs, ICE said in a statement.

It said NinjaVideo operated from February 2008 until it was shut down by authorities in June 2010 -- after the defendants allegedly collected more than $500,000 and facilitated millions of dollars worth of copyright infringement.

ICE said the charges are exemplary of efforts to "safeguard the nation's economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work."

Defendants Hana Amal Beshara of New Jersey and Matthew David Howard Smith of North Carolina were identified as the founders and administrators of NinjaVideo, and Jeremy Lynn Andrew of Oregon was allegedly the site's head of security.

Joshua David Evans of Washington state and Zoi Mertzanis, a resident of Greece, were alleged to be two of the most active uploaders of copyrighted material to the website.

The federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia returned the indictment Thursday, charging the five defendants with one count of conspiracy and five substantive copyright infringement counts for their involvement with NinjaVideo.

Many of NinjaVideo's offerings were still in theaters or not yet released. NinjaVideo also offered many of its movies and shows for free, but opened greater access to its selections for a "donation" of a minimum of $25 dollars, ICE reported.

But the website generated significant revenue during its two-and-a-half-year run through advertising, according to ICE.

Thursday's indictment was part of the investigation being conducted by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations, which fights criminal counterfeiting and piracy, in conjunction with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center.

The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on September 16.

(Editing by Jerry Norton)