Officials from the US Department of Justice have unsealed today charges against three men involved in a movie piracy group known as Sparks.
According to court documents, the group’s members operated by “fraudulently” obtaining DVDs and Blu-Ray discs storing unreleased movie and television shows, breaking copyright protections through a process called “ripping,” and releasing the shows online, where they were taken and disseminated via illegal video streaming portals or torrent sites.
To obtain unreleased movies and TV shows, authorities said the group would often pose as real-world DVD and Blu-ray discs retailers.
The group rose to infamy on the underground movie piracy scene for often leaking movies and television shows even before their official release.
As part of the crackdown against this group, three men were charged today, with indictments naming Umar Ahmad (39, aka Artist), George Bridi (50), and Jonatan Correa (36, aka Raid) as taking part in the group’s operations.
Two arrests were made, with authorities arresting Bridi, a UK national, in Cyprus, and Correa in Kansas, US. The last member, Ahmad, a Norweigian citizen, is still at large, the DOJ said today.
The two arrests were part of a coordinated operation that involved law enforcement agencies from 18 countries, including the DOJ and Europol, which resulted in authorities seizing dozens of servers through which the group had distributed its pirated content in the past.
News of the arrests and subsequent raids on Spark servers were first reported yesterday by TorrentFreak, a website dedicated to copyright and piracy-related topics.
The site reported a general panic in the underground “ripping” community, where Sparks has been a reliable content distributor since 2011.
The Sparks group was one of the many members of a movie ripping community known as The Scene, and much of the pirated content created by the group would often bear the community’s name.