A joint federal-agency task force on Dec. 1 raided three Pandora's Cube videogame and computer outlets in suburban Washington, D.C., shopping centers, with the authority to seize circumvention devices

A joint federal-agency task force on Dec. 1 raided three Pandora's Cube videogame and computer outlets in suburban Washington, D.C., shopping centers, with the authority to seize circumvention devices -- modified Xbox and Sony PlayStation 2 game consoles -- and copyrighted software.

Involved in the raids were agents of the U.S. Department of Justice's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland and the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

A DOJ spokesman tells Billboard.biz that the raids were "in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation."

During the operations on stores in malls at White Marsh and College Park, Md., and Springfield, Va., two Pandora's Cube employees were arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and conspiracy to traffic in a device that circumvents technological protections measures, a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The U.S. Attorney's Office is following up on court appearances and other legal action.

Strongly supporting the crackdown on what he calls "a major pirate game retailer" is Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Assn., which represents U.S. computer and videogame publishers with 90% of industry sales.

"We thank these government agencies for their commitment to attacking intellectual property theft, and will do whatever we can to support a successful prosecution of the people involved in this pirate ring," he says. "This action underscores the government's recognition that videogame piracy and piracy in all forms is a crime against the economic strength of America, and some of its fastest growing industries."

The DOJ's spokesman adds, "Intellectual property crimes of this type are a high priority, and the CCIPS has taken the lead in working with U.S. attorneys in all jurisdictions. We're also working closely with other countries as well on all types of media piracy."