U.S. Department of Justice - CyberCrime.gov Archived

Digital Millennium Copyright Act Cases (DMCA) - U.S. v. Whitehead (C.D. Cal.) (Operation DeCrypt; First DMCA Jury Trial Conviction)

September 22, 2003


U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Central District of California
Thomas Mrozek
Public Affairs Officer
(213)894-6947
thom.mrozek@usdoj.gov
Contact: James Spertus
Assistant U.S. Attorney

Federal Jury Convicts Smart-Card Hacker for Violating Digital Millenium Copyright Act  

In the first-ever jury trial convictions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a federal jury in Los Angeles late Friday found a hacker known as “JungleMike” guilty of selling hardware used to illegally receive DirecTV satellite broadcasts.

Following a four-day trial, Thomas Michael Whitehead, 38, of Boca Raton, Florida, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy, two counts of selling devices designed to unlawfully decrypt satellite television programming and three counts of violating the DMCA.

Whitehead was convicted for purchasing software code necessary to reprogram DirecTV access cards. Whitehead paid a co-conspirator $250 a month to continually update the software to circumvent the latest DirecTV security measures. Whitehead then used the software to create and sell illegally modified DirecTV access cards (often stamped with the “JungleMike” moniker) to a nationwide client base. This conduct violated the DMCA which prohibits trafficking in technology primarily designed to circumvent a technological measure effectively controlling access to a copyrighted work.

Whitehead was indicted earlier this year as part of Operation Decrypt, an undercover FBI investigation that targeted high-level computer programers and hardware manufacturers who distributed software and devices used to steal satellite service from DirecTV and DISH Network. Both DirecTV and DISH Network have spent millions of dollars creating some of the world’s most sophisticated conditional access technologies, and both have suffered millions in losses from the crimes committed by the seventeen defendants charged under Operation Decrypt.

Several other defendants charged as part of Operation Decrypt have pleaded guilty to a variety of charges, including violations of the DMCA, since the indictments were announced in February.

Whitehead, however, proceeded to trial and was convicted Friday by a federal jury. As a result of the six felony convictions, Whitehead now faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison and fines of up to $2.75 million. Whitehead, who is currently free on bond, is scheduled be sentenced on January 26, 2004 by United States District Judge Christina A. Snyder.

This investigation was handled by the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, Cyber Crime Division, and was prosecuted as part of the Attorney General’s Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property program. CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney James Spertus

(213) 894-5872 Release No. 03.127


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