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Alleged Adobe Bootlegger Held in Contempt in Fla.

(CN) - A Florida man alleged to have sold counterfeit Adobe software for at least 20 years has been held in contempt of court for violating an asset-freeze order.

In a lawsuit filed in Miami Federal Court on August 21, 2014, Adobe Systems Inc. claims that defendant Steven Blackburn and business entities he controls willfully sold counterfeit and/or bootlegged Adobe-branded software since at least 1993.

Days later, U.S. District Judge James Cohn granted Adobe's request for a temporary restraining order, which included an order restraining transfer of assets. Then, on September 4, 2014, Judge Cohn also granted Adobe's request for a writ of attachment regarding the defendants' financial accounts.

"Construing Plaintiff's request as seeking to temporarily freeze Defendants' financial accounts, the Court found that a temporary freeze was 'necessary to preserve funds that may be used to satisfy any monetary relief awarded in this case," Cohn wrote.

Despite these successive orders, the judge said, "from September 3, 2014, to September 9. 2014, several withdrawals, payments, and transfers were made from two bank accounts naming Defendant Steven Blackburn as an owner. ... The total funds withdrawn equaled $83,504.11 and included a cashier's check in the amount of $53,000. During the same period, both accounts were closed."

Adobe complained the transactions violated the asset-freeze requirements of the court orders, and also alleged that when confronted about the withdrawals, Blackburn refused to return the withdrawn funds or to disclose the status and location of the cashier's check.

It response, it asked the court to find Blackburn in contempt, to order him to return the funds, and lastly, to impose "an additional fine for Defendant's egregious behavior."

"Blackburn does not dispute that the challenged withdrawals were made, that he was at least present when most of the funds were withdrawn, and that he was aware of the first two asset-freeze orders at the time of the withdrawals," Cohn wrote. "Instead, Blackburn argues that (1) he held the two accounts jointly with his wife Stacy, who was not then a party to this action; (2) several of the transactions in one account were online payments that Blackburn had previously scheduled; and (3) two transactions were made in an account containing assets unrelated to Defendants' alleged illegal conduct."

The argument left Judge Cohn unmoved.

"Based on the evidence presented, Plaintiff has show clear and convincing evidence that Blackburn violated the Court's Orders restraining the assets in Defendants' bank accounts," he wrote.

"During the time of Blackburn's transactions, the Restraint Order and Attachment Order were in effect, and together they made plain that no one who knew of the Orders was to transfer funds from any of Defendants' bank accounts," Cohn continued. "Yet Blackburn, with full understanding of these Orders, proceeded to withdraw more than $80,000.00 from accounts listing him as an owner."

The judge was similarly unpersuaded by Blackburn's argument that one account contained no funds related to his alleged infringing activities.

"The Attachment Order includes no such requirement, and, in any event, the record shows that Defendants often commingled their bank accounts," Cohn wrote. "Nor has Blackburn produced any evidence that he could not comply with the asset-freeze Orders-all he had to do was leave the accounts untouched. More, according to Plaintiff, Blackburn has refused to return the withdrawn money or to help Plaintiff locate the $53,000.00 cashier's check. The Court will therefore hold Defendant Steven Blackburn in civil contempt."

Judge Cohn ordered Blackburn to place the entire $83,504.11 withdrawn in the court registry, and imposed a fine of $500 per day until he complies. If Blackburn fails to do so, Cohn said, he will face additional sanctions including possible imprisonment.

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