IMAGINE Group Cammer Got 40-Month Prison TermOne of the members of the in-theater camcording gang called “IMAGiNE Group” was recently handed a 40-month prison term, which became the longest sentence in a file-sharing case in the country. Gregory A. Cherwonik, 53, from New York, was handed the term by a Virginia federal judge one year after he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit copyright violation.
Overall, 5 people have pleaded guilty to running IMAGiNE, which is regarded as the most prolific piracy release group since 2009. The indictment said that the group in question sought to be the best group to first release the online copies of new movies only showing in the theaters.
The MPAA said that the group was more successful than any other unauthorized Internet release group due to its short latency periods between the theatrical release and their pirated release. They also always showed good quality of audio captures and high volume of releases. IMAGiNE members would audio-record such movies as Friends with Benefits, while other members would record the movie at a theater with a camcorder. Then the pirates combined the sound and video into a full-featured movie.
The police pointed out that the group used servers located in France, Canada and the US in order to offer in-theater-only motion pictures from various portals. According to the indictment, IMAGiNE Group accepted donations to fund expenses of renting servers and to accept payments for the illegal distribution and sale of pirated content. The indictment also charged that the outfit’s website featured member profiles, a torrent tracker, and a forum.
Aside from Cherwonik, Javier E. Ferrer, 41, also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright violation for participating in IMAGiNE. He will be sentenced in March and is currently faces a maximum 5-year jail term. Sean Lovelady, 28, was given 23 months prison term a few weeks ago and had agreed to cooperate with the police. Then Willie Lambert, 57, was handed 30 months and ordered to pay $450,000 in damages. Jeremiah Perkins will also be sentenced in January after pleading guilty to a criminal copyright charge.
Cherwonik got the record term because he was described as the system operator of the IMAGiNE group. Moreover, the prosecutors claimed that he continued as the outfit’s leader for a year after his home was searched by the police.