In what is described as the largest satellite-signal-theft case in U.S.
history, 17 men have been indicted for writing software and hardware to defeat
the "smart-card" technology utilized by DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications
The U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California announced the result
of a yearlong investigation Tuesday, the day five of the men were taken into
U.S. attorney Debra W. Yang said the men who have been charged worked
together in an "underground, online community" to develop hacking technology.
They were caught by an investigation dubbed "Operation Decrypt."
Warrants were served on the men in seven states last October. Evidence in
those raids was taken to a grand jury, which issued the indictments.
As an example of the damage caused by the pirates, investigators said one man
-- Randyl Walter of West Los Angeles, Calif. -- has already pleaded guilty to
manufacturing decryption devices and admitted that his activities caused nearly
$15 million in damages to DirecTV and EchoStar.
"In terms of our own long-standing and vigorous campaign against signal
thieves, we believe this case will help to mitigate the spread of piracy now and
weaken efforts to hack our conditional-access system in the future," DirecTV
executives said in a prepared statement.