Hacker ordered to pay back £100,000 after selling unreleased music by world-famous recording artists
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A court has granted a confiscation order against a hacker who was jailed in 2022 after he stole unreleased material owned by famous recording artists and sold it on the dark web in exchange for cryptocurrency.
Adrian Kwiatkowski, 23, of Hampton Road, Ipswich, was given three months to pay £101,503 at Ipswich Crown Court on 26 May 2023 following proceedings brought by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at City of London Police.
The amount is made up of £51,975 held in a bank account owned by Kwiatkowski and 2.64 BTC (Bitcoin), worth £49,528, making it the first confiscation order of cryptocurrency secured by PIPCU. The assets were seized by officers from the unit after they arrested Kwiatkowski in 2019.
Kwiatkowski pleaded guilty at Ipswich Magistrates Court on 27 August 2022 to fourteen copyright offences, three charges of computer misuse, two charges of possession of criminal property and one charge of converting criminal property. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment at Ipswich Crown Court on 21 October 2022. Failure to make the payment within three months will result in him facing an additional 18 months imprisonment.
Detective Constable Daryl Fryatt from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at City of London Police, said:
“Kwiatkowski executed a complex scheme to sell creative content that he did not own. Not only did he cause several musicians and their production companies significant financial harm, he deprived them of the ability to release their own work.
“Our work doesn’t just stop at conviction, and this result means that Kwiatkowski will not be able to benefit any further from the money he earned through criminal activity."
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office first launched an investigation in 2019 after the management companies of several musicians reported that an individual, known online as Spirdark, had gained access to a series of cloud-based accounts and was selling the content that had been saved in them.
It linked the email address used to set up Spirdark’s cryptocurrency account to Kwiatkowski and identified the IP address of the device used to hack one of the accounts as his home address, before referring the investigation to PIPCU.
Officers from PIPCU, supported by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), found that Kwiatkowski made £131,000 from selling the music.
Kwiatkowski was arrested by PIPCU officers on 12 September 2019. The unit seized seven devices including a hard drive that contained 1,263 unreleased songs by 89 artists, and a document that summarised the method he had used to obtain them.
During his police interview, Kwiatkowski admitted he had hacked the musicians’ accounts and sold their songs online. He also confirmed that he used the alias Spirdark.
Melissa Morgia, Director of Global Content Protection and Enforcement at the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), said:
“We welcome the recent developments in this case. This type of criminal activity jeopardises the work of artists and the efforts of the teams of people supporting with the creation and release of their music.”
“This is an excellent example of international cooperation and we would like to thank the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the City of London Police for their support in this matter.”