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CUSTOMS AGENTS SWOOP DOWN ON VIDEO GAME PIRATES

Businesses and homes are raided in Florida and 15 other states for cheating devices.

Federal customs agents raided more than 30 businesses and homes in 16 states Wednesday, looking for devices that allow pirated video games to play on Wiis, PlayStation 2s and Xboxes.

The alleged sale and distribution of illegal modification chips and copyright circumvention devices for the popular consoles and others included 32 search warrants in 16 states, said the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE declined to release the names of those targeted, but said they are allegedly responsible for importing, installing, selling and distributing foreign-made devices smuggled into the U.S.

Businesses within Florida have been targeted, but Marc Raimondi, an ICE spokesman, declined to release any details.

"We have only issued search warrants, and no arrests have been made," he said.

Illegal chips and other devices used on gaming consoles violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. Sales of counterfeit or illegally obtained games costs the industry about $3-billion a year globally, not including Internet piracy, estimates the Entertainment Software Association trade group.

Piracy losses for Nintendo and its game developers and publishers likely totaled $762-million last year alone, said Jodi Daugherty, senior director of anti-piracy at Redmond, Wash.-based Nintendo America. Wednesday's federal raids came after a yearlong investigation.

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