The US Department of Justice and other US federal agencies, together with Europol and Eurojust, announced the dismantling of The Sparks Group, a worldwide video piracy operation with servers located in North America, Europe and Asia.
Sparks had been active since 2011, by ripping “virtually every available movie” from physical media such as DVDs and bluRay disks, and loading them onto servers. Law enforcement investigations had been underway since 2016.
US criminal charges were announced against three individuals involved in the video piracy operation for copyright infringement, and in the case of one of those three individuals, an additional charge of wire fraud. One of the individuals (George Bridi, a UK citizen) was arrested in Cyprus on an Interpol notice. Another (Jonatan Correa, an American), was arrested in Kansas; and the third (Umar Amad, aka ‘Artist,’ a Norwegian citizen), was still at large as of this writing.
Law enforcement authorities in 18 additional countries, supported by Eurojust and Europol and the US authorities, collaborated to take down about 60 servers used to illegally store and distribute copyrighted content, including “nearly every movie released by major production studios,” as well as TV programming.
The US agencies collaborating with Europol and Eurojust were the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Postal Inspection Service and the office of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Read further details in the US Attorney’s Office press release
Read the Europol press release
Why it matters
According to US Postal Inspection Service Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett, “Copyright criminals have come a long way from bootlegging movies in local theaters and selling inferior quality videos and DVD’s on the streets of New York City for $5.00. The movies and TV shows allegedly stolen by these defendants not only represent a body of work ripped off from those who spent years developing their craft and working their way to stardom, but deprives the studios and actors of the fruits of their labor,” he said.
This successful operation was possible thanks to the extensive international cooperation facilitated by Europol and Eurojust between law enforcement and judicial authorities from the countries involved. Europol provided analytical support during the investigation and supported the information exchange between the involved police authorities via a secure communication platform.