A jailed computer hacker who stole two unreleased songs from Ed Sheeran and 12 from an American rapper and offered the tracks for sale on the dark web has been ordered to pay back £101,503, City of London Police said.
Adrian Kwiatkowski, of Hampton Road in Ipswich, offered the songs by Sheeran and by US musician Lil Uzi Vert in exchange for cryptocurrency after hacking the performers’ digital accounts.
The 23-year-old defendant’s Apple Mac laptop was searched, uncovering 565 audio files including the songs by Vert and Sheeran.
He pleaded guilty to three charges of unauthorised access to computer material, 14 charges of making for sale an article infringing copyright, one charge of converting criminal property and two charges of possession of criminal property before being jailed for 18 months at Ipswich Crown Court in October 2022.
A court has now granted a confiscation order against the hacker, giving him three months to pay £101,053 on May 26, 2022, after proceedings brought by the Police Intellectual 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, which makes it the first confiscation order of cryptocurrency secured by PIPCU.
If the payment is failed to be made within three months, he will face a further 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.”
City of London Police said The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office 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 accounts and was selling the content that had been saved in them.
The investigation 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, City of London Police said.
The investigation was referred to the force’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), supported by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).
After further investigation, Kwiatkowski was arrested by PIPCU officers in September 2019.
The unit seized seven devices including a hard drive that contained 1,263 unreleased songs by 89 artists, City of London Police said.
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.”