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Media piracy costs city man $550K

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A Winnipeg music and video "pirate" has admitted to the largest operation of its kind in Canada.

Raj Singh Ramgotra, 36, was arrested in 2008 following an extensive RCMP investigation into Audiomaxxx, which was suspected of selling bootleg copies of music, movies and even pornography on the black market. Officers raided his Pembina Highway business, seizing numerous computers, equipment and elaborate DVD-burning and printing machines.

Ramgotra returned to court today to plead guilty and be sentenced for what the Canadian Recording Industry Association has called "20 times bigger" than anything that had been busted in the country. Audiomaxxx had been in business for several years, building a massive online customer base.

Ramgotra was given a two-year conditional sentence which allows him to remain free in the community. He will also pay $150,000 in fines, which the Crown says is the amount of profit he made over the years. He will also pay $400,000 in in restitution.

At the time of the arrest, CRIA president Graham Henderson called it a victory for the little guy. He said many of the artists being pirated by Audiomaxxx were small Caribbean and reggae musicians that "urged and begged" the CRIA to investigate.

Major artists weren't spared either -- the CRIA said Audiomaxxx was illegally selling music by Shania Twain, Nelly Furtado and Jay Z as well as many other well-known names.

A visit to the Audiomaxxx website showed the company was selling all manner of music and movies for $3.99 to $5.99 each, far below normal retail. The site also offered digital downloading of videos and music.

The police raid netted investigators more than 200,000 CDs, labelled and ready for shipment.

Ramgotra's case has slowly dragged through the legal system, due largely to the massive amount of evidence obtained during the year-long investigation and disclosure required for the defence.

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