Founders of illegal Android store Applanet plead guilty to piracy

The convictions are part of the first-ever prosecution of mobile app piracy groups, the Justice Department says

The founders of the illegal Android store Applanet have pleaded guilty to piracy, giving the Justice Department a set of convictions in its first-ever prosecution of mobile app piracy groups.

Before it was shut down in 2012, Applanet distributed more than 4 million copies of copyrighted Android apps worth more than $17 million, the Justice Department says.

Aaron Blake Buckley, 22, of Moss Point, Mississippi, pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and to one count of criminal copyright infringement. His co-conspirator Gary Edwin Sharp II, 29, of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement on January 13.

According to the Justice Department, the pair ran the website from 2010 -- back when Buckley was 16 years old -- through 2012. In August 2012, the FBI seized the Applanet website, marking the first seizure of the domain name for a website involving a mobile device app marketplace.

Sharp also pleaded guilty for his role in conspiring to commit criminal copyright infringement as the leader of the SnappzMarket Group. Through its website -- also seized by the FBI in 2012 -- the SnappzMarket Group distributed more than one million pirated copies of Android apps worth $1.7 million.

Buckley and Sharp are scheduled to be sentenced on August 1.