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Feds seize cash, Web sites of alleged film pirates

U.S. seizes assets and Web sites belonging to those accused of illegally distributing movies over the Internet.

A week after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden warned that the government would start cracking down on illegal file sharing, the feds swooped in and seized assets belonging to operators of accused movie-pirating sites. will soon be offline after feds seized the site. The U.S. alleges site operators distributed unauthorized film copies. Screenshot by Greg Sandoval/CNET

The government on Wednesday also took control of at least seven of the sites in question:,,,,,,,, and More than a dozen bank, investment, and advertising accounts were seized, and authorities served search warrants on residences in several different states.

Authorities are searching for operators of the sites as part of an ongoing criminal investigation, according to Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The crimes that the operators are accused of committing weren't clear, but some of the sites are accused of distributing film copies prior to their theatrical release.

As of 3 p.m. PDT, some of the sites were still operating, but government officials said they anticipated the sites would come under government control within hours.

The investigation involved multiple law enforcement groups, including the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and ICE, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security.

Last week, Biden and Victoria Espinel, the U.S. intellectual property enforcement coordinator, told reporters that they wanted to send a message to counterfeiters and pirates that this administration was intent on protecting the nation's intellectual property. Espinel directed a statement at those people who trafficked in phony goods or unauthorized music and movies: "We have committed to putting you out of business."

ICE and the Department of Justice both suggested Wednesday that these types of seizures and investigations are just the beginning.

More to come