A third member of the Internet piracy group “IMAGiNE” was sentenced to 40 months in prison, and a fifth member of IMAGiNE has pleaded guilty.
Gregory A. Cherwonik, 53, of Canandaigua, N.Y., was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in the Eastern District of Virginia. In addition to his prison term, Cherwonik was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution. Cherwonik pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement on July 11, 2012.
Javier E. Ferrer, 41, of New Port Richey, Fla., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. At sentencing, scheduled for March 14, 2013, Ferrer faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Cherwonik was indicted along with three other defendants on April 18, 2012, for their roles in the IMAGiNE Group, an organized online piracy ring that sought to become the premier group to first release Internet copies of movies only showing in theaters. Ferrer was charged in an information on Sept. 13, 2012, for his role in the IMAGiNE Group.
According to court documents, Cherwonik, Ferrer and their co-conspirators sought to illegally obtain and disseminate digital copies of copyrighted motion pictures showing in theaters. Cherwonik admitted to ordering a receiver to be used to capture the audio sound tracks of copyrighted movies (referred to as “capping”). Cherwonik wrote the computer code for the IMAGiNE Group’s website. He also worked with another IMAGiNE Group leader to establish a PayPal account for donations made to support the site and to create the new website, which was hosted on a computer server in France.
Ferrer admitted he secretly used a video camera to film copyrighted motion pictures in movie theatres. He then used software to synchronize an audio file with his illegally obtained video of the movie to create a completed movie file suitable for sharing over the Internet. According to testimony by a representative of the Motion Picture Association of America, the IMAGiNE Group constituted the most prolific motion picture piracy release group operating on the Internet from September 2009 through September 2011.