Homeland Security, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized 307 websites Feb. 2 for allegedly streaming copyrighted sports broadcasts and pay-per-view events, according to a statement from the agency.
The seizure, dubbed Operation Fake Sweep, occurred five days before Super Bowl Sunday. The majority of the websites--291 of them--sold counterfeit NFL goods. So far, as part of the sweep, Yonjo Quiroa, a.k.a. Ronaldo Solano, has been arrested in Comstock, Mich., and charged with one count of criminal infringement of a copyright.
The remaining sites allegedly streamed events including wrestling matches, basketball and football games.
The 16 websites that linked to copyrighted streams included: irstrow.tv, xonesports.tv, firstrowsports.tv, firstrowsports.net, firstrowsports.com, hq-streams.tv, robplay.tv, soccertvlive.net, sports95.net, sports95.com, sports95.org, sportswwe.net, sportswwe.tv, sportswwe.com, youwwe.net, and youwwe.com. Quiora ran nine of them, according to the statement.
Quiora remains in custody. The Justice Department's complaint against Quiora claims the man made at least $13,000 annually from running these websites.
In that 15-page complaint, prosecutors outline a case of obscured identity, tracking Quiora through Facebook, under his pseudonym Ronaldo Solano. Both Solano and Quiora allegedly liked sports, football and wrestling and invited others to visit some of the websites in question. The indictment, sworn by Homeland Security Special Agent Michael Manganiello, states:
I know from viewing a Michigan State driver's license that the man in 'Ronaldo Solano's' Facebook profile picture is the same person as Yonjo Abisay-Quiora Solano.
While most people are focusing on whether the Patriots or Giants will win on Sunday, we at ICE have our sights on a different type of victory: defeating the international counterfeiting rings that illegally profit off of this event, the NFL, its players and sports fans.
In a press release, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: Sports fans may be tempted by illegal streaming websites, but in the end, it is they who pay the price. These websites and their operators deprive sports leagues and networks of legitimate revenue, forcing spectators and viewers to bear the cost of this piracy down the line. Yonjo Quiroa's arrest and these 16 seizures underscore our commitment to stopping this virtual thievery.
NBC and the NFL announced in late December the Super Bowl would, for the first time, be streaming legally over the web and through Verizon smartphones.