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Hollywood just caught some major movie pirates through Facebook, report reveals

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Several of the U.K.’s biggest movie pirates recently received jail sentences totaling 17 years (split among five malefactors). A sprawling investigation by a Hollywood-endorsed anti-piracy group, the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), led to the prosecutions brought against the five men.

Now, thanks to investigation papers obtained by TorrentFreak, it has been revealed that the investigators found the men rather easily, via their social media accounts.

The five culprits were responsible for managing a number of interconnected illegal file-sharing groups that together released more than 2,500 films online. The groups, named ‘RemixHD,’ ‘26K,’ ‘UNiQUE,’ ‘DTRG,’ and ‘HOPE/RESISTANCE’, had uploaded a variety of major films online, including Argo, The Avengers, and Skyfall, read a FACT statement.

“The outreach of their criminality was vast. On just one website where the group shared their films there had been millions of downloads,” added the anti-piracy group.

Related: Mad Max: Fury Road is the most pirated film of 2015

As with each of the movie pirates, Sahil Rafiq — who received the longest sentence of four years and six months — was identified through the aliases he used on the torrent sites to which he upload his files. Rafiq had also used one of the same usernames, ‘Sohail20,’ to create a post on the forum of a U.K. tech retailer regarding PC issues he was having. He signed off the post with his real name, which prompted a FACT investigator to search for his Facebook profile. Through the social network, they found Rafiq’s place of work — a science school in Wolverhampton, U.K. The last piece of the puzzle, Rafiq’s home address, was uncovered with the aid of a credit reference agency, Equifax. The details were then handed to the police.

In another instance, Graeme Reid (jailed for three years and six months) was identified via a Hushmail email address he’d used as a contact for an upload of the movie 21 Jump Street. Reid used the same email address on his Facebook page, which also contained his profession (“encoder”) and whereabouts (Chesterfield). FACT then used the Electoral Register to locate Reid’s home address, and soon enough the police were knocking on his door.

Facebook was also used as part of an investigation by FACT that led police to 33-year-old Ben Cooper, who has been jailed for three years and six months.

Although FACT’s investigators worked long and hard to track down their suspects, the culprits’ social media slip-ups likely made life a lot easier for the organization.