Xiang Li stole more than $100m of engineering design software

Chinese businessman jailed in US for software piracy

A Chinese businessman has been sentenced to 12 years in a US prison for selling $100m of pirated manufacturing software.

Xiang Li, 36, of Chengdu, China, was arrested in June 2011 after an undercover sting by US Department of Homeland Security agents on the Pacific island of Saipan, an American territory near Guam, for selling stolen software used in defence, space technology and engineering.

A US federal judge handed down the 12-year sentence yesterday and the US Attorney's Office for the District of Delaware said Li would be deported to China pending his release from prison.

Originally charged in a 46-count indictment, he pleaded guilty in January to single counts of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright violations and wire fraud. At the hearing, Li admitted that what he did was "wrong and illegal" and apologised to the court.

Li stole the sophisticated software from an estimated 200 manufacturers and sold to 325 black market buyers in 61 countries from 2008 to 2011, prosecutors said.

US buyers in 28 states included a NASA engineer and the chief scientist for a defence and law-enforcement contractor, prosecutors said. Corporate victims in the case included Microsoft, Oracle, Rockwell Automation, Agilent Technologies, Siemens, Delcam, Altera and SAP, the government said.

Officials and Li's lawyer previously said the case was the first in which a businessman involved in pirating industrial software was lured from China by undercover agents and arrested.

The retail value of the business software products Li pirated ranged from several hundred dollars to more than $1m apiece. He sold them online for as little as $20 to $1,200 through his websites, according to government court filings.

At one point, Li's sites offered more than 2,000 pirated software titles, prosecutors said. Li trolled black market internet forums in search of hacked software, and people with the know-how to crack the passwords needed to run the program.

Then he advertised them for sale on his websites. Li transferred the pirated programs to customers by sending compressed files via Gmail, or sent them hyperlinks to download servers, officials said.

Government agents learned of Li's enterprise after an unidentified US manufacturer noticed his company's software for sale on one of Li's websites.

The investigation revealed that Li was part of a larger cybercrime organization based in China, prosecutors said. Through emails sent to various customers, Li described himself as being part of "an international organization created to crack" software, prosecutors said.

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