Home Atlanta Press Releases 2014 Members of Three Different Android Mobile Device App Piracy Groups Charged

Members of Three Different Android Mobile Device App Piracy Groups Charged
Two Members of the SnappzMarket Piracy Group Arrested

U.S. Department of Justice July 21, 2014
  • Office of Public Affairs (202) 514-2007/TDD (202)514-1888

WASHINGTON—Three federal indictments were unsealed today in the Northern District of Georgia charging six members of three different piracy groups—Appbucket, Applanet and SnappzMarket—for their roles in the illegal distribution of copies of copyrighted Android mobile device applications, or “apps,” announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates of the Northern District of Georgia, and Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office.

Two members of the SnappzMarket Group—Joshua Ryan Taylor, 24, of Kentwood, Michigan, and Scott Walton, 28, of Cleveland, Ohio—were arrested today. Taylor will appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ellen S. Carmody in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Walton will appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge William H. Baughman, Jr. in Cleveland, Ohio.

“As a result of their criminal efforts to make money by ripping off the hard work and creativity of high-tech innovators, the defendants are charged with illegally distributing copyrighted apps,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “The Criminal Division is determined to protect the labor and ingenuity of copyright owners and to keep pace with criminals in the modern, technological marketplace.”

“Copyright infringement discourages smart people from doing innovative things,” said U.S. Attorney Yates. “This problem is especially acute when it comes to rapidly developing technologies, like apps for smart phones, and these defendants are now being held accountable for the intellectual property they stole.” “Today’s federal indictments are the direct result of an extensive and thorough federal investigation into three groups of individuals aggressively engaged in and profiting from the theft of intellectual property,” said Special Agent in Charge Johnson. “While copyright infringement is the direct theft of the hard work of others in the form of research and development expended, it can also negatively impact incentives for further or future development of those ideas or applications. The FBI will continue to provide significant investigative resources toward such groups engaged in such wholesale pirating or copyright violations as seen here.”

An indictment returned on June 17, 2014, by a grand jury in the Northern District of Georgia charges Gary Edwin Sharp II, 26, of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, along with Taylor and Walton, with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, and also charges Sharp with two counts of criminal copyright infringement. According to the indictment, Sharp, Taylor and Walton identified themselves as members of the SnappzMarket Group. From May 2011 through August 2012, they conspired with Kody Jon Peterson, 22, of Clermont, Florida, and other members of the SnappzMarket Group to reproduce and distribute over one million copies of copyrighted Android mobile device apps, with a total retail value of over $1.7 million, through the SnappzMarket alternative online market without permission from the copyright owners of the apps, who would otherwise sell copies of the apps on legitimate online markets for a fee. A separate information filed on Jan. 23, 2014 charged Peterson with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, and he pleaded guilty on April 14, 2014.

An indictment returned on June 17, 2014, by a grand jury in the Northern District of Georgia charged James Blocker, 36, of Rowlett, Texas, with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. According to the indictment, he and his fellow conspirators identified themselves as members of the Appbucket Group. From August 2010 to August 2012, Blocker conspired with Thomas Allen Dye, 21, of Jacksonville, Florida; Nicholas Anthony Narbone, 26, of Orlando, Florida; Thomas Pace, 38, of Oregon City, Oregon; and other members of the Appbucket Group to reproduce and distribute over one million copies of copyrighted Android mobile device apps, with a total retail value of over $700,000, through the Appbucket alternative online market without permission from the copyright owners of the apps, who would otherwise sell copies of the apps on legitimate online markets for a fee. A separate information filed on Jan. 24, 2014 charged Dye, Narbone, and Pace with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. Dye, Narbone and Pace pleaded guilty to the charged conspiracy on March 10, 2014, March 24, 2014 and April 15, 2014, respectively.

An indictment returned on June 17, 2014, by a grand jury in the Northern District of Georgia charges Aaron Blake Buckley, 20, of Moss Point, Mississippi; David Lee, 29, of Chino Hills, California; and Sharp with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, and also charges Lee with one count of aiding and abetting criminal copyright infringement and Buckley with one count of criminal copyright infringement. According to the indictment, Buckley, Lee, and Sharp identified themselves as members of the Applanet Group. From May 2010 through August 2012, they conspired with other members of the Applanet Group to reproduce and distribute over 4,000,000 copies of copyrighted Android mobile device apps, with a total retail value of over $17 million, through the Applanet alternative online market without permission from the copyright owners of the apps, who would otherwise sell copies of the apps on legitimate online markets for a fee.

The indictments charge leading members of the SnappzMarket Group, the Appbucket Group, and the Applanet Group with renting computer servers to host websites such as www.snappzmarket.com, www.appbucket.net, and www.applanet.net, respectively, to provide digital storage for the pirated copies of copyrighted Android apps that each group distributed to their members or subscribers. On Aug. 21, 2012, seizure orders were executed against these three website domain names for the illegal distribution of copies of copyrighted Android mobile device apps—the first time website domains involving mobile device app marketplaces have been seized.

Charges contained in an indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by the FBI. Assistant Deputy Chief for Litigation John H. Zacharia of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Bly of the Northern District of Georgia are prosecuting the case, with the assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian M. Pearce of the Northern District of Georgia. The Office of International Affairs provided assistance in the matter. Significant assistance in the case has also been provided by the CCIPS Cybercrime Lab.

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