Serial video game pirate Dashiell Ponce de Leon was recently sentenced to three years and ten months in federal prison, two years of supervised release, and ordered to pay over $1.154 million in restitution for criminal copyright infringement by the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) applauded the stiff penalties, which followed the settlement of a civil action against Ponce de Leon for similar intellectual property theft in 2001.
"We are grateful for the work of U.S. law enforcement and prosecutors in bringing this defendant to justice," said Douglas Lowenstein, president of the ESA, the trade association representing U.S. computer and video game publishers. "Sentences that include significant jail time send a clear message to software pirates that intellectual property theft is a serious crime and that perpetrators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Dashiell Ponce de Leon, of Richmond, TX, pled guilty to charges of selling pirated video games and software on the Internet, which earned him approximately $192,000 in revenue. During his sentencing hearing on October 6, 2005, the Court rejected the defendant's request for a more lenient sentence given his earlier involvement in piracy. The judge stated that the sentence sends a strong deterrent message to others who think they are too smart to get caught in this illegal activity.
The case against Dashiell Ponce de Leon was the result of a joint effort of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"), the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, and the United States Department of Justice's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.
In 2001, several ESA members filed a civil action against Mr. Ponce de Leon for selling pirated game software over the Internet. As part of the settlement that was reached in that case, Mr. Ponce de Leon apologized in writing for his game piracy activities. However, soon after entering into the settlement agreement, Mr. Ponce de Leon again began pirating business and entertainment software, which led to this criminal case.