Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pirate spared time in jail

Illegal operation largest in Canada

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A Winnipeg music and video "pirate" has been spared a jail sentence for running the largest illegal operation of its kind in Canada.

Raj Singh Ramgotra, 36, was arrested in 2008 following an extensive RCMP investigation into Audiomaxxx, which was selling bootleg copies of music, movies and 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 Thursday 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.

"This was a well-organized commercial enterprise," Crown attorney Jeremy Akerstream told court. He said Ramgotra is believed to have peddled nearly $1.9 million worth of product between May 2005 and March 2008.

'This was a well-organized commercial enterprise'

-- Crown attorney Jeremy Akerstream

Under a joint recommendation from lawyers, Ramgotra was given a two-year conditional sentence that 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.

"The profit margin was very small," said Akerstream. "It was a flawed business model."

Ramgotra will also pay $400,000 in restitution as part of the plea bargain.

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 who "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 slowly dragged through the legal system over the past four years, due largely to the massive amount of evidence obtained during the year-long investigation and disclosure required for the defence.

"There's been a great deal of negotiation," Akerstream said Thursday.

As part of his conditional sentence, Ramgotra must abide by a 24-hour curfew, with exceptions to leave the house for work purposes.

"If you think this is a lark and not that big of a deal, breach it and you'll be back before me," provincial court Judge Brent Stewart said in handing down the sentence.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 20, 2013 A7

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