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Man to Pay in Counterfeit Software Case

December 5, 2003

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A Virginia man has agreed to pay Microsoft Corp. $1.7 million as part of a guilty plea to federal charges related to selling counterfeit software.

Ben John Barbot, 51, of Richmond pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court to one count of criminal copyright infringement and one count of trafficking in counterfeit goods.

Barbot admitted the retail value of the counterfeit software he distributed was more than $7 million. From June 2001 to December 2002, Barbot distributed more than 17,000 counterfeit Microsoft programs, according to his statement.

He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 20.

``This is the largest restitution order ever awarded for selling knockoff Microsoft products,″ U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty said.

Prosecutors said Barbot received thousands of copies of counterfeit Microsoft programs _ primarily Office 2000 Professional _ from suppliers in other states. The counterfeits were packaged to look like Microsoft products, and Barbot advertised them as authentic.

He sold them through several Internet-based businesses he created. Names of the businesses included eSoftware Outlet, Best Byte Software, Bright Software and Wahoo Warehouse, according to court papers.

U.S. Customs agents began looking into Barbot’s activities after Microsoft, responding to complaints, sent Barbot a ``cease and desist″ letter. Lawyers for the company informed him that one of his companies was selling software that Microsoft had determined to be counterfeit.

Other letters followed, but Barbot continued selling the bogus programs through other entities he created, investigators said.