NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (AP) -- Four men have pleaded guilty for their roles in an online piracy ring that illegally distributed tens of thousands of copyrighted materials through the Internet, authorities said.

Federal prosecutors said Thursday the guilty pleas are part of a national probe into pirated video games, movies, music files and computer software. Some of the file servers were located at the State University of New York at Albany, authorities said.

The investigation is continuing, and authorities say they expect to charges others in the scheme.

"The magnitude of this problem is serious and can't be underestimated," U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor said. "Stealing the intellectual property of others is no different from any other form of thievery."

The defendants -- three from New York and one from Washington state -- pleaded guilty this week in New Haven to federal counts of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement.

Prosecutors said three of the defendants were actively involved in the "warez" scene, in which copyright-protected material is "cracked" and made available illegally through the Internet. They face up to five years in prison if convicted.

The fourth defendant helped maintain the Albany university servers, and if convicted faces a one-year maximum sentence.

The prosecutions stem from Operation Safehaven, a 15-month investigation that in April resulted in the seizure of thousands of pirated CDs and DVDs and dozens of computers and servers.

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