WASHINGTON — A founder of NinjaVideo.net, a website that provided millions of users with the ability to illegally download high-quality copies of copyright-protected movies and television programs, was sentenced today to 14 months in prison. The sentence is the result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center).
Matthew David Howard Smith, 24, of Raleigh, N.C., was sentenced today in Alexandria, Va., by U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga also ordered Smith to serve two years of supervised release following his prison term, to pay $172,387 and to forfeit to the United States five financial accounts and various computer equipment involved in the crimes. Smith pleaded guilty on Sept. 23, 2011, to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement.
Smith was one of the founders of the NinjaVideo.net website, which operated from February 2008 until it was shut down by law enforcement in June 2010. NinjaVideo.net provided millions of website visitors with the ability to illegally download infringing copies of copyright-protected movies and television programs in high-quality formats. Many of the movies offered on the website were still playing in theaters, while others had not yet been released. According to court documents, Smith designed many operational elements of the website, including an “applet” that was required to view infringing content on the NinjaVideo.net website. Smith admitted that he made agreements with online advertising entities to generate income for the website, and he and his co-conspirators collected more than $500,000 during the website’s two-and-a-half years of operation. Smith kept $172,387 of the illegal proceeds for himself.
On Sept. 9, 2011, Smith was indicted along with four of the other top administrators of NinjaVideo.net. Co-defendant Hana Amal Beshara was sentenced on Jan. 6, 2012, to 22 months in prison and ordered to repay nearly $210,000 for her role as another co-founder of NinjaVideo.net. Two additional co-defendants are awaiting sentencing. An arrest warrant remains outstanding for the fourth indicted co-defendant, Zoi Mertzanis of Greece. Another co-founder of NinjaVideo.net who was charged separately has also pleaded guilty.