On October 24, 2008, MENDEZ pleaded guilty and admitted that, for nearly four years, he was a participant in the "warez scene," an underground online community consisting of individuals and organized groups who engage in the large scale reproduction, modification and distribution of copyrighted software over the internet. In the warez scene, certain participants (known as "suppliers") are able to obtain access to copyrighted software, video games, DVD movies, and MP3 music files, often before those titles are even available to the general public. Other participants, known as "crackers," then use their technical skills to circumvent or "crack" the digital copyright protections. Others, known as "couriers," then distribute the pirated software to various file storage sites ("FTP sites") on the internet for others to access, reproduce, and further distribute. The leading warez groups competed with one another to attain the reputation as the fastest, highest quality providers of pirated materials.
Specifically, MENDEZ was a well-known "supplier" of approximately 100 titles of copyrighted works that subsequently were cracked and uploaded to various FTP servers that distributed pirated software and media in affiliation with several leading warez groups, including "Fairlight." MENDEZ also had privileged access to, and downloaded many pirated works from, various warez sites.
"Operation Higher Education" is the largest component of the global law enforcement action known as "Operation Fastlink," announced by the Department of Justice on April 22, 2004. Twelve nations participated in "Operation Higher Education." The investigation yielded searches and seizures of more 70 high-level targets that were conducted in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, the United States, as well as Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
"Operation Higher Education" was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's New Haven office in coordination with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Connecticut and the Department of Justice's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section ("CCIPS"). This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Edward Chang.