27 June 2016

FBI stalls trio who pirated Mercedes-Benz software

Three men found guilty of pirating Mercedes-Benz software and selling it on at a discounted price have escaped jail but were fined thousands of dollars following an FBI investigation.

According to the  FBI, Martin Vellozzi, Rainer Wittich and Robert Beckmann created and sold nearly 1,000 units of pirated Mercedes-Benz diagnostic software systems.

Diagnostic systems are used by auto mechanics to diagnose and fix vehicles. The Mercedes-Benz Star Diagnostic System is a hand-held computer containing proprietary, confidential software that costs as much as $22,000.

The FBI said Vellozzi, Wittich and Beckmann made a profit by copying the software and selling it at a lower price than Mercedes would normally market it for.

More than 1,000 units of the software were sold both nationally and internationally for between $6,000 and $12,000.

In April this year, Vellozzi was sentenced to four years on probation and fined $6,000. Wittich was handed a five-year sentence, also on probation, and his company, the Brinson Company, was ordered to forfeit $150,000.

Beckmann was sentenced to four years on probation and was fined $5,000 for criminal copyright infringement. His company, Beckmann Technologies, was fined $75,000.

All three were sentenced at the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana earlier this year.

The case started in 2011 when Mercedes representatives contacted the FBI’s Intellectual Property Rights Unit reporting suspicions.

The report led to an undercover operation at one of Vellozzi’s automotive repair seminars where pirated units were reportedly being openly sold.

Special a gent Sundanah Parsons, who led the investigation case from the FBI’s New Orleans Field Office, said: “All three conspirators had legitimate businesses in the automotive industry.

“Each one had a different kind of expertise, and they came together to profit from their illegal activity."

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