David Rocci, 22, who used the on-line screen name "krazy8," pleaded guilty on 19th December in a Virginia district court, to conspiring to import, market and sell the circumvention devices in violation of the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The offences carry a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $500,000 for each count charged.
Mod chips are designed to circumvent copyright protections built into game consoles such as the Microsoft Xbox and Sony Playstation 2, and once installed, allow the playing of pirated games on those consoles. They can also be used to evade regional controls which mean prevent a console bought in one part of the world running games purchased in another.
According to the Justice Department, Rocci sold approximately 450 Enigmah mod-chips for between $45 and $60 each. The chips were illegally imported from the UK and designed specifically for use in the Microsoft Xbox console.
As a condition of his plea, Rocci agreed to surrender to the government his web site, iSONEWS.com. The site now carries Department of Justice information about his case. However, a few months prior to the seizure, the domain was sold to a third party located outside of the US.
A statement on the site, now running at http://22.214.171.124/, says the new owners are seeking legal advice with a view to challenging the seizure of the name on the grounds that it may be "illegal and abusive."
In addition to the prison term and fine, Rocci must serve five months' home detention and three years' probation.