Two Indians are among five men charged in the US for allegedly running an international piracy ring that distributed major movies and television shows prior to their official release by hacking Hollywood film companies.
According to the indictment filed in the United States District Court, members of the hacking conspiracy broke into computer systems used by Hollywood film production companies and stole digital files, including feature films, trailers, television series episodes, and audio tracks.
The suspects include Aditya Raj and Jitesh Jadhav from India.
According to prosecutors, the men uploaded the hacked movies and shows onto a server in France, which contained 25,000 movie-related files, including the feature films 'Godzilla', 'How to Train Your Dragon 2' and 'Horrible Bosses 2'.
They are also accused of selling access to the stolen films via PayPal. The suspects are alleged to have sold films to a confidential source working on behalf of the Motion Picture Association of America.
The ring is alleged to have been run BollyTNT, an earlier site that hosted pirated Bollywood films.
The indictment alleges that the group was involved in hacking from early 2013 to the spring of 2015. They face seven counts of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, aggravated identity theft, and copyright infringement.
The defendants, who are not in the US custody, are accused of altering the digital files so that they could be easily distributed across the internet.
In addition to selling films via private online communication, the defendants also uploaded the stolen content to pirating sites. The men then distributed profits via a shared PayPal account, according to the indictment.
Raj and Jadhav are accused of using a camcorder to pirate films in movie theaters in India. Ghobhirajah Selvarajah, believed to be in Malaysia, is alleged to have operated the ring's PayPal account, while Sam Nhance of Dubai is accused of running the server. Malik Farooq is from the UK, the US Attorney's Office for the Central District of California said in a news release.
The criminal conduct allegedly began in 2013 and continued until spring 2015, the release said.
In February 2015, one of the men allegedly told a potential customer that copies of the films 'Kingsman: The Secret Service" and "Fifty Shades of Grey" would be available to buy on the same day they were released in US theaters