HSI was tipped off to Li's operation by a software vendor, and the agency's investigation resulted in the notification of cracked software to several other vendors, Kelleghan said. Some of the software vendors "had no clue their software was getting cracked," he said.
The investigation may lead some software vendors to reexamine their anticopying security, Kelleghan said.
The DOJ had sought a three-year prison sentence for Best. Prosecutors argued that Best encouraged Li and the Russian hacker to crack copies of software for him.
Best held a secret U.S. government security clearance, prosecutors wrote in a sentencing document. Best "became the very epitome of a compromised individual known to those who posed an international threat to the United States," prosecutors wrote.
Best's lawyer, Edmund Lyons, argued that criminal copyright sentences were typically much shorter than the DOJ requested, with recent sentences averaging less than a year. Lyons wasn't immediately available for comment Monday.
The HSI investigation found that between April 2008 and June 2011, Li sold about 550 pirated software titles to about 325 customers located in more than 25 states and more than 60 foreign countries. The software, from about 200 vendors, had a retail value of more than $100 million, the DOJ said.
Between January 2010 and June 2011, undercover agents made a series of purchases of pirated software from Crack99.com. Undercover agents met Li in Saipan in June 2011. Li had agreed to travel from China to Saipan to deliver pirated software, design packaging, and 20 gigabytes of proprietary data obtained from the server of a U.S. software company to undercover agents posing as U.S. businessmen. Agents arrested Li during a meeting in Saipan.
Li is scheduled to be sentenced on May 3.
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.