Tech enthusiast jailed for selling pirated blockbuster films

|News, Fraud and economic crime

A technology enthusiast who sold unreleased blockbuster films online from his bedroom in Halifax has been jailed.

In 2012 the Motion Picture Association of America, who represented 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros, discovered that their films were being illegally distributed.

Delving into the piracy, investigators centred their efforts on an online profile called Dark999 who was selling unauthorised versions of films.

The investigation team used online aliases to establish that Luqman Farooq, 31, was the person selling the blockbuster films before they had been officially released.

Despite accepting $5,019 for Fast and Furious 7 ahead of its release and $1,200 for Horrible Bosses 2, Farooq insisted that he was only involved with internet piracy groups so he could report offenders to the authorities.

On 24 October 2019 Farooq pleaded guilty to defrauding copyright owners and proprietors of trademarks. Yesterday (Friday 6 March) at Southwark Crown Court he was sentenced to two years and three months in prison.

Proving Farooq was Dark999

Investigators identified the unique internet protocol (IP) address to show it was Farooq who had accessed an unreleased version of Fast and Furious 7 from a private site.

When Farooq’s computer and hard drive were searched, they found his logins for the Dark999 online profile, as well as proof that Farooq owned the PayPal account he had used for the transaction with the undercover investigators.

The prosecution showed that Farooq had bespoke software which was made for the production company’s clients to access films ahead of their release, as well as 22 files on Farooq’s hard drive which included unauthorised versions of Kingsman, Godzilla and Fast and Furious 7.

The court heard how Farooq had a short cut on his desktop to the Fast and Furious 7 film which had the same file name as the one accessed from the private platform and sold to online investigators.

After Farooq was arrested, he said he was only involved because he wanted to identify the main offenders to give this information to authorities.

However, the prosecution made it clear that Farooq had not reported anyone and was actually a key player in the piracy network.

Jonathan Kelleher of the CPS said: “Farooq insisted that he was only trying to help authorities by catching key players in the piracy network, but he was actually the offender responsible for pirating numerous blockbuster films.

“The technology, that Farooq was so fascinated by, ultimately led to his downfall, giving an audit trail of him accessing unofficial files and releasing them for his own gain.

“CPS Specialist Fraud Division has worked closely with colleagues from City of London Police and the US authorities in order to secure this result.”

Notes to editors

  • Jonathan Kelleher is a Specialist Prosecutor for the Specialist Fraud Division at the CPS
  • Luqman Farooq (DOB 14/8/1988) pleaded guilty on the second day of trial to the offence of conspiracy to defraud with others unknown the film and television industry copyright owners and proprietors of trademarks on 24 October 2019 and on Friday 6 March was sentenced to two years and three months in prison.

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