Federal judge hands out a 50-month prison term, near-$700,000 fine to infamous "warez" merchant.
Crime sure didn't pay for Sean Michael Breen. In an Oakland court on Tuesday, the Richmond, California resident was sentenced to 50 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Armstrong. His offense? Selling and illegally distributing nearly half a million dollars' worth of cracked console and PC games over the past decade.
Breen's sentence follows his guilty plea and subsequent conviction last July on two counts of copyright infringement and on three counts of mail fraud. As has been widely reported, the charges stemmed from Breen's multiyear tenure as the self-styled leader of Razor1911, an infamous group of game hackers responsible for an elaborate black-market "warez" operation. He is the latest and last Razor1911 member to be sentenced--last June, a North Carolina-based member received an 18-month jail term on related charges.
According to court documents, Breen and other Razor1911 members acquired, cracked, and sold advance copies of Quake, Command & Conquer Red Alert, Terminal Velocity, Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, and many other games.
They acquired advance copies of said titles by posing as reviewers for fictitious game magazines and having them shipped to a derelict storefront address in Oakland. Breen and his associates would then illegally distribute their games via pirated-software sites and often sell physical copies. Their unconcealed efforts garnered the attention of the U.S. Customs Service, which arrested Breen and 40 other individuals after an extensive undercover operation known as "Operation Buccaneer."
Razor1911 members also posed as customers of Cisco Systems in order to place massive hardware orders they never paid for. This tactic came back to haunt Breen today, when Judge Armstrong ordered him to pay $690,236.91 in restitution to Cisco--more than the value of the software he was accused of distributing.
Breen begins his sentence on March 26. Barring parole, he will be released in May 2008, when he will have to serve a further three years probation. He will also have to finish reimbursing Cisco, which will likely take much longer.