Three pleaded guilty in federal court in Central Islip to criminal copyright infringement, officials said Thursday.
Michael Calabria, Joseph Keegan and Casey Silver pleaded guilty to charges related to installing unlicensed versions of software by using what officials described as “cracking” programs or “key generators,” according the U.S. Justice Department.
With this scheme, Construction Technologies, of which Calabria and Keegan were prinicipals, and Silver an employee, could activate copies of a particular software without paying for a license or obtaining a key.
When sentenced, each defendant faces up to one year in prison and a fine.
Constructure is charged with a felony violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and agreed tp pay a $60,000 fine, officials said.
“With the guilty pleas and deferred prosecution agreement, Constructure and the individual defendants admit to committing a high-tech theft by installing unlicensed software they didn’t pay for, and cheating software companies of license fees they were owed,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis said in a statement.
“We install software on our computers to protect us from hackers and criminals. Software companies are constantly updating and fixing programs with patches to stay one step ahead of the bad actors who work non-stop to exploit vulnerabilities. The three employees who are pleading guilty in this investigation only saw the profit they could make if they gamed the system. Users paying for security software should be able to rely on the legitimacy of it,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael Driscoll said in a statement.
According to officials, Constructure provided information technology services, helping install, manage and service various networks and other technology products for small and medium sized businesses. Calabria was Constructure’s president, Keegan was the chief technology officer, and Silver was a project manager.
Records show that between 2011 and 2018, Constructure sold, installed and provided services for computer programs that were copyrighted and then sold by software companies, including VMWare, a global cloud-computing software company. Some of those computer programs were designed to not be activated until a user paid the company for a “license” to use that software. In purchasing a license, the user received a “key”—a string of letters, numbers and symbols—that, when entered into the copy of software obtained by the user, activated the software.
Constructure’s clients generally paid the firm to purchase licenses for such computer programs and to activate those programs with a legitimate license key, officials said. But since about 2011, Calabria, Keegan, and Silver helped to operate Constructure’s business in part by installing unlicensed versions of software from victim software companies by using cracking programs or key generators, enabling Constructure to activate copies of the software without paying for a license and obtaining a key.
Constructure employees, often at the express direction of Calabria or Keegan, used cracking programs or key generators to install software from multiple victim software companies.
Constructure employees, including Keegan, obtained license keys and cracking programs from the internet, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. They tested these programs through a computer server in the basement of Constructure’s Melville office and via a file-sharing site controlled by Constructure, so the programs could be used remotely by Constructure employees.
By installing working, but unlicensed, versions of software, Constructure was able to bill a customer for the software, under the pretense that Constructure purchased a copy on behalf of the customer, while not actually paying for it, according to the Justice Department. Constructure employees did not tell clients or the victim software companies that Constructure employees used cracks to install those programs, officials said.
This practice went on until 2018, with Constructure employees installing the cracked software programs for multiple clients.
These clients were located in Hicksville, Mineola, Manhattan and Bridgewater, New Jersey, according the Justice Department.