Software pirates who live outside of the US often think that they are safe from arrest and prosecution, especially if they live in China. However, a recent arrest of a Chinese software pirate through a bit of trickery by ICE shows that when you sell pirated software worth millions in licenses you can be found and prosecuted.
There's no getting around the fact that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) folks love nothing better than going after pirates, at least when they aren't doing mass takedowns of web sites they think are doing nasty and illegal things. However, there are some countries that ICE can't force their way into to go after pirates.
One of those countries is China, which might account for the cavalier attitude that Xiang Li had when it came to cracking and selling pirated software that was worth millions of dollars in licensing fees owed to the companies whose software he was pirating. Through his site Crack99.com Li managed to accumulate customers for his pirated wares from around the world, at least according to the report (PDF file) that ICE used as grounds to go after him.
Xiang Li was right that he was safe as long as he stayed in China but ICE had other plans and managed to trick Li into traveling to the remote US territory of the Northern Mariana Islands where they pretended that they were customers looking to buy pirated copies of software from him, and when he showed up he was promptly arrested.
Once arrested, ICE got a warrant to search his Gmail account where they found a trail of sales of software that was used for industrial and governmental purposes that included aerospace simulation, computer-aided manufacturing, and defense systems. ICE was able to verify that Li had at least $60,000 in sales of his pirated versions of software programs to US customers.
Li now faces up to a $250,000 fine as well as up to 25 years in jail. Needless to say, ICE is proclaiming this action as one of the most significant copyright infringement cases that it has solved.