OAKLAND -- Three Fremont brothers accused of illegally streaming television shows and movies on websites they created are now facing criminal charges of conspiracy, grand theft and receiving stolen property.
Hop Hoang, 26, Tony Hoang, 23, and Huynh Hoang, 20, were charged this week by the state attorney general's office after they ignored demands by the Motion Picture of Association of America (MPAA) to shut down the site they created at least 18 months ago.
The brothers generated about $150,000 by selling advertisements on the websites they used to give the public free access to more than 1,000 movies and popular television shows, the state attorney general's office announced.
Investigators from the MPAA first noticed the brothers' websites, iphonetvshows.net and movieiphone.net, several months ago and sent a cease and desist letter to Tony Hoang demanding he stop streaming the illegally obtained footage.
Court documents say the brothers shut down the two websites after receiving the letter but created a new site, mediamp4.com, soon after that once again offered Internet users free access to copyrighted shows and movies.
At that point, state Attorney General Kamala Harris's office began an investigation, which eventually led to the charges that were filed against the brothers this week.
The brothers attracted viewers by placing strategic ads on Google, the state attorney general's office said in a statement.
"Digital piracy is theft. It is a serious crime that harms one of California's most important economic engines -- our entertainment industry," Harris said in a statement.
Hop Hoang pleaded not guilty to the crimes Thursday when he appeared in Alameda County Superior Court. His brothers are scheduled to return to court next week to be appointed public defenders.
Hop Hoang's attorney, Michael Thorman, said he is still reviewing information and could not comment on the case but did question why Harris' office would issue a press release on the matter.
"I'm a little surprised that something of this magnitude, which is very small, is the subject of press release," Thorman said.