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Software pirate steals way into prison

A software pirate was sentenced to a year in prison for selling Microsoft Office.

Steal software, go to prison.

That's the law that sent Jeffrey Allen Solochek to serve a one-year sentence today for fraud and perjury in connection with pirating Microsoft software.

Solochek's sentence was handed down in June. The two months he already served while under trial will be subtracted from his 12-month sentence.

Solochek was arrested in October 1995 in Phoenix, Arizona, by federal agents after an FBI software piracy investigation. He was charged with five counts of fraud for illegally selling Microsoft's Office. Solochek pleaded guilty to two of the five charges and was sentenced to pay a $10,000 settlement to Microsoft and serve 366 days in federal prison. The judge also ordered him to three years of official supervision after his release and said he must get approval from a probation office for all future employment.

The pirate is in jail because of a scam that got Solochek copies Microsoft software upgrades at reduced prices. In 1994, Microsoft offered upgrades of Office to any user who sent in his or her invoice and $10 for shipping. Solochek sent Microsoft false letters claiming that he had the software checks for $10--and, upon receiving the upgrades, resold them to others.

Solochek operated of his business, LED Wholesale and Best Software & Accessories, in Nashville, Tennessee, and sold an unspecified amount of the software for more than $40,000, Microsoft attorney Anne Murphy charged.

Microsoft officials found out about Solochek's scheme through its piracy hotline. The hotline receives about 1,200 calls a month.

"Most of the calls often come from consumers who report businesses who copy software without a license and we get calls concerning online piracy," Murphy said. "He was representing himself as an end user of sorts and obtained the upgrade fraudulently and then sold it to people."

Software piracy cost U.S. companies $2.8 billion in revenues in 1994, according to the Business Software Alliance. "Software piracy is a very attractive crime to the extent that it's easy to do and it hasn't been enforced as much," Murphy said. "My hope is that this decision will act as a deterrent, and hopefully it will have an effect of reducing piracy."