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Woman to Pay $11M in Software Scam

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  • Woman to Pay $11M in Software Scam

    LOS ANGELES (AP) - A woman described as a major player in a worldwide computer software piracy organization was sentenced to nine years in prison and ordered to pay $11 million in restitution to software giants Microsoft and Symantec.

    Lisa Chen, 52, pleaded no contest Friday to one count of failure to disclose the origin of a recording or product. She was one of four people arrested in November 2001 as part of a ring suspected of importing nearly $98 million in counterfeit computer products and software from Taiwan.

    "The counterfeit seized in this investigation was high quality," said Pat Mueller, senior investigator with Microsoft. "It takes tremendous technical capability to do this."

    Prosecutors said they believe the sentence was the longest prison term given in the country to a first-time felon involving software piracy.

    Chen, of Hacienda Heights, wept as her sentence was pronounced. Her attorney had attempted to portray her as an unwitting participant in the scheme.

    "We're not saying she was the mastermind, but she made it happen," said prosecutor Jonathan Fairtlough of the district attorney's high tech crime unit.

    He said Chen arranged wire transfers of money and storage of computers and software when they arrived in this country. When she was arrested she had bank records going back to 1998 for organizations linked to the scheme.

    "We think that she is a major player in a worldwide organization," Mueller said.

    Fairtlough said the U.S. Customs Service helped break the ring when its inspectors spotted suspicious shipments. About 100,000 items were seized, including knockoffs of Windows XP, Windows 2000NT and Microsoft Office 2000 Pro Software.

    Joy Cartun, director of legal affairs for Symantec, said buyers who think they are getting a bargain often don't realize they are buying counterfeit products.
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