Federal raids target illegal chips that run pirated video games
WASHINGTON » Federal customs agents raided more than 30 businesses and homes in 16 states, including Hawaii, yesterday looking for devices that allow pirated video games to play on Wiis, PlayStation 2s and Xboxes.
The alleged sale and distribution of illegal modification chips and copyright circumvention devices for the popular consoles and others included 32 search warrants in 16 states, said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"There was one search warrant executed in Honolulu," said Lori Haley, ICE spokeswoman.
ICE declined to release the names of those targeted but said they are allegedly responsible for importing, installing, selling and distributing foreign-made devices smuggled into the United States.
Illegal chips and other devices used on gaming consoles violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. Sales of counterfeit or illegally obtained games costs the industry about $3 billion a year globally, not including Internet piracy, estimates the Entertainment Software Association trade group.
Piracy losses for Nintendo and its game developers and publishers likely totaled $762 million last year alone, said Jodi Daugherty, senior director of anti-piracy at Redmond, Wash.-based Nintendo America.
Daugherty's five-person team coordinates global anti-piracy efforts for Nintendo's Japan-based parent company. Since April the company has helped law enforcement agencies worldwide seize 61,000 counterfeit Wii modification chips, she said.
Yesterday's federal raids came after a yearlong investigation conducted by ICE's Office of the Assistant Special Agent in Charge in Cleveland, which coordinated with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Ohio and the Department of Justice's Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section. ICE said it also received assistance from companies and industry trade groups.
The raids were conducted in California, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin.
Star-Bulletin reporter Nelson Daranciang contributed to this report.