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Man pleads guilty to selling Windows code

But he doesn't know who stole the goods, his lawyer says. Feds are recommending a sentence of 10 to 30 months.

A Connecticut man has pleaded guilty in federal court to selling Microsoft source code over the Internet.

William P. Genovese Jr., 28, of Meriden, Conn., entered his plea Monday in a Manhattan federal court to charges that he unlawfully sold and attempted to sell portions of Microsoft's source code for Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

According to federal prosecutors, Genovese initially found the source code in February last year, after another party misappropriated the code and distributed it over the Internet without Microsoft's authorization. The defendant, who went under the alias of "illwill" and "xillwillx@yahoo.com," then posted the code to his site and offered it for sale.

An investigator for Microsoft and an undercover FBI agent were able to download copies of the stolen source code and send an electronic payment to Genovese between February and July of last year.

Genovese was charged with one count of unlawfully distributing a trade secret. He is expected to be sentenced this fall.

Although the U.S. criminal code allows a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for this type of crime, the U.S. Attorney General's office is recommending a sentence of between 10 to 30 months, said Sean Hecker, Genovese's attorney.

Hecker added that it is up to the judge to determine whether he will accept the sentencing guideline the parties worked out under the plea agreement.

"Mr. Genovese was anxious to put this case behind him," Hecker said. "He is working full time at his father's business...and is eager to be a productive member of society."

Hecker added that Genovese does not know the identity of the party who initially misappropriated Microsoft's source code.

Microsoft is not alone in finding its source code leaked and then offered for sale. Last year, a group calling itself the Source Code Club offered to sell older versions of Enterasys Network's Dragon intrusion-detection system source code for $16,000 and Napster's client and server software code for $10,000. In a later pitch, the SCC offered Cisco Pix 6.3.1 source code for $24,000.