Xiang Li of Chengdu, China, pleaded guilty in federal court in Wilmington, Del., Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly III said. Customs officials said it was one of the largest copyright infringement rings ever uncovered.
Prosecutors said the 36-year-old ran the website www.Crack99.com, which offered thousands of pirated software titles for a fraction of their retail cost. When software is "cracked" its internal licensing code is compromised, allowing it to be duplicated and copied, then resold for pennies on the dollar.
More than one-third of his customers were from the United States, with several high-level defense contractors named by prosecutors as having purchased cracked software to avoid the full expense.
He faces a maximum 25-year prison term, a fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release when sentenced by U.S. District Judge Leonard P. Stark May 3.