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Software pirate pleads guilty to theft of $100 million in goods

A Chinese man accused of cracking and selling software stolen from Microsoft, Oracle, and Agilent Technologies pleads to guilty copyright violations and wire fraud in U.S. federal court.

After being lured to U.S. territory and arrested in an undercover sting, Chinese national Xiang Li pled guilty in U.S. federal court to pirating, cracking, and selling software worth more than $100 million today, according to Reuters.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security took down Li in June 2011 after agents discovered that he was heading a pirating ring that sold stolen software on the Web. The software was mostly used by defense, space, and engineering companies and was made by Microsoft, Oracle, Rockwell Automation, Agilent Technologies, Siemens, and others.

"Li thought he was safe from the long arm of U.S. law enforcement, hiding halfway around the world in cyberspace anonymity. He was sorely mistaken," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Director John Morton said in a statement last year. "Whether in China or cyberspace, this arrest is proof that Homeland Security Investigations and our partners at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center are committed to identifying, infiltrating and disrupting these criminal enterprises wherever they exist."

According to Reuters, Li stole the software from about 200 U.S. manufacturers and sold it in 61 different countries on Web sites he owned, like crack99.com. He operated from 2008 to 2011. Prosecutors say that the retail value of what Li stole totaled more than $100 million, although he sold it for far less.

In order to catch Li, U.S. agents worked undercover for 18 months buying thousands of dollars of software from him that had a total retail value of $150,000, according to Reuters. In 2011, agents nabbed Li by getting him to travel to the island of Saipan, which is a U.S. territory near Guam, under the premise of a joint illegal business venture.

Originally he was charged with 46 criminal counts but ended up pleading guilty to two single counts of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright violations and wire fraud. Li faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine. His sentencing is set for May 3.