Following a tip off from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), cops arrested four members of the prominent BitTorrent group, IMAGiNE in 2011. Though all pleaded guilty, one of the group's leaders, Gregory Cherwonik, was sentenced Nov.29 to a 40-month prison term, identified as the largest file-sharing punishment in the U.S. till date.

Apparently, the lengthy sentence is a reflection of Cherwonik's "sysop" status in the group, which authorities pointed out, was higher in rank than two other members who were handed 23 and 30-month jail sentence earlier in November, the Wired has reported.

The IMAGiNE group is associated with 41 percent of "English-language theatrical audio piracy" from September 2009 to September 2011.

Reportedly, the group engaged in recording camcorder footage of new releases in one location and captured "high quality" audio of the same film in another location, the Wired has indicated.

Chernowik was also ordered to pay $15,000 as compensation to the MPAA, TorrentFreak has reported, adding the group distributed new films via private BitTorrent tracker UnleashTheNet.

Two other members of the group who pleaded guilty await judgment.