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International movie piracy ring targeted Hollywood film companies, prosecutors say

International movie piracy ring targeted Hollywood film companies, prosecutors say
People arrive to watch "Fifty Shades of Grey" on its opening day in Los Angeles on Feb. 12, 2015. The film is one of dozens prosecutors say were stolen and sold by an international movie piracy ring. (Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images)

Five men accused of operating an international movie piracy ring were indicted Wednesday on federal charges after authorities say they hacked into Hollywood film company computer systems to steal unreleased movies and TV shows such as “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “The Walking Dead.”

Federal prosecutors say the group would alter the properties of the computer files to make them easier to distribute online and either offer them for sale or upload them onto pirate movie websites. They are accused of selling access to the stolen films via PayPal as part of the scheme, which lasted from 2013 to 2015, according to prosecutors.

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It is not clear how many or which film companies were targeted.

The men — Malik Luqman Farooq, Aditya Raj, Sam Nhance, Ghobhirajah Selvarajah and Jitesh Jadhav — face seven counts, including conspiracy to commit computer fraud, unauthorized access to a computer, aggravated identity theft and copyright infringement, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Authorities suspect the men are based in four countries: the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and India. Farooq, 30, is the only one who has been arrested. He is awaiting trial in London on related charges.

Authorities said Jadhav used a camcorder to film movies such as “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” that later were sold by other members of the ring.

The indictment alleges Farooq sold more than a dozen stolen films, while Raj released pirated movies online. Selvarajah was the registered owner of the group’s PayPal account, and Nhance maintained a computer server that stored the digital files for distribution, according to the indictment.

Investigators discovered more than 25,000 motion pictures, including “Godzilla,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and “Horrible Bosses 2,” had been uploaded to the server in France.

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