(Newsroom America) -- A New York man has pleaded guilty to conspiring to willfully reproduce and distribute tens of thousands of infringing copies of copyrighted works without permission, including infringing copies of movies before they were commercially released on DVD.
Gregory A. Cherwonik, 53, of Canandaigua, N.Y., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. The plea was entered before U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Cherwonik was indicted on April 18, 2012, along with three other leading members of the IMAGiNE Group, an organized online piracy group seeking to become the premier group to first release Internet copies of new movies only showing in theaters.
According to court documents, Cherwonik and his co-conspirators sought to illegally obtain and disseminate digital copies of copyrighted motion pictures showing in theaters.
Cherwonik admitted that he helped to create a new website for the IMAGiNE Group hosted on a computer server located in France. Cherwonik ordered receivers and recording devices for the purpose of secretly using them in movie theaters to capture the audio sound tracks of copyrighted movies (referred to as “capping”).
After obtaining, editing and filtering audio sound tracks and uploading them to servers utilized by the IMAGiNE Group, his co-conspirators used software to synchronize the audio file with an illegally obtained video file of a movie to create a completed movie file suitable for sharing over the Internet among members of the IMAGiNE Group and others.
Mr. Cherwonik also admitted that the IMAGiNE Group’s conduct resulted in a readily provable and reasonably foreseeable infringement amount of more than $400,000.
A co-defendant, Sean Lovelady, pleaded guilty on May 8, 2012, to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. Another co-defendant, Willie Lambert, pleaded guilty to the same charge on June 22, 2012. Charges remain pending against co-defendant Jeramiah Perkins.
Cherwonik faces up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release.