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Domain thieves beware: the consequences for virtual crime may be getting a little more real. The case of Daniel Goncalves, alleged domain thief, is expected to set new precedent in this area that has been untouched by criminal law until now. The arrest of Goncalves for the theft of domain name P2P.com was the first of its kind.
While many domain names are very valuable as an investment or business tool, domain name owners finding themselves victims of theft often are left with little recourse. Those fortunate enough to have resources to pursue the thieves have resorted to civil litigation for recovery. It looks as though the tides may be turning on cyber criminals though; Goncalves now faces charges of theft by unlawful taking or deception, identity theft, and computer theft for a total of up to 30 years in prison.
Getting to this point has not been easy for the previous owners of P2P.com, Marc Ostrofsky and Albert and Lesli Angel. Ostrofsky and the Angels partnered to buy P2P.com for $160,000 as an investment in 2005. The Angels say that Goncalves hacked into their AOL email account. He then had the information he needed to access the Godaddy.com account and transfer the domain name to his own Godaddy account under a false name. Goncalves reportedly auctioned P2P.com on eBay in 2006, and professional basketball player Mark Madsen was the winning bidder at a price of $111,000.
Ostrofsky and the Angels claim to have spent 30 months and $500,000 in the struggle to get the domain name back. They took their case to police in Florida, where the Angels reside, and New Jersey, where Goncalves resides. After a six month investigation, Florida prosecutors determined that they did not have enough evidence and dropped the case. Ostrofsky and the Angels continued to gather evidence and decided to proceed in civil court. Then Detective Sergeant John Gorman contacted them about pursuing the criminal charges in New Jersey.
Domain Name News quoted Lesli Angel as saying:
Let’s face it the legal system has not caught up with the growth of the [I]nternet. We hope the outcome of this case paves the way and makes it easier for victims of this type of crime. These guys are thieves! Why are they not being arrested? Why are they continuing to get away with this?
This case demonstrates that the law is catching up to the new legal dilemmas presented by the Internet.
– Hannah Smith
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