Leader of Internet piracy group sentenced to five years in prison

Perkins had admitted to renting servers for IMAGiNE to use and registered domain names on the group's behalf, the department added. He also admitted to opening email and PayPal accounts that were used to collect money from people who downloaded copies of the group's pirated films online.

Perkins was indicted in April along with three other members of the piracy ring. Perkins will serve the longest prison sentence of the group.

The investigation of the case and arrests were carried out by agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations unit. Over the past three years, ICE and the Justice Department have engaged in a widespread crackdown on the pirating of movies and music online. Authorities have shut down more than 100 websites, including Megaupload, as part of that effort.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) lauded the judge's sentencing of Perkins and hailed it as a victory for content creators. The motion picture lobbying group had claimed that the IMAGiNE was responsible for more than 40 percent of all movie theater piracy of English-language films.

"This group was the most prolific English-language movie theft group in history, and shutting it down was a huge step forward in helping to reassure consumers that the movies and TV shows they watch online are legitimate and secure, not stolen," said MPAA spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield in a statement. "This was a significant victory in the effort to protect the hard work of creators online, and in the effort to protect an internet that works for everyone.”