A Chinese citizen charged in federal court in Kansas City as part of a multimillion-dollar computer software piracy case was arrested Wednesday in Texas as he was about to board a plane.
Wen Tao Liu, also known as Orland Liu, is charged with conspiring with six other men who have been previously convicted in the scheme with trafficking in counterfeit computer software products and access codes.
Federal authorities allege that the ring is one of the largest of its kind ever prosecuted in the United States.
Liu, 36, made his initial court appearance in federal court in Texas on Thursday.
The complaint filed against him in U.S. District Court in Kansas City was unsealed after his arrest.
He is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud; trafficking in illicit labels, counterfeit labels and counterfeit documentation and packaging; solicitation of access devices and smuggling goods in the United States.
Through his business based in Hong Kong, Liu allegedly served a “primary source of supply” for unauthorized products obtained in China and sold by conspirators across the United States.
Court documents allege that since at least 2010 he fraudulently obtained and sold counterfeit, illicit or unauthorized Microsoft software and products, including key codes and key cards needed to access the software.
Microsoft lost millions of dollars as a result of the scheme, according to court documents.
Consumers were also victimized, prosecutors allege, because the same codes were sold multiple times and would have been blocked by the time they tried to activate them.
The investigation into the piracy ring began in 2013 after federal agents discovered that a Kansas City man was selling unauthorized computer software products.
According to an affidavit filed to support the charges, investigators have identified at least 4,600 product activation key codes distributed by Liu to resellers in the United States. Those codes were determined to have been collectively activated more than 36,000 times, according to the documents.
Based on the number of activations of that group of codes, officials estimated a loss of about $9 million to Microsoft.
At Thursday’s court hearing in Texas, Liu was ordered to remain in custody pending his transfer to federal court in Kansas City.