An American man has been accused of stealing net addresses worth more than $9m (£7m) by US prosecutors.
Amir Golestan of South Carolina is alleged to have tricked an organisation that controls some net addresses into handing them over.
In total, Mr Golestan won control of more than 750,000 addresses.
The addresses are valuable because the large pool of them used from the early days of the net is coming close to running dry.
The US Department of Justice claims that Mr Golestan “fraudulently” won control of the net addresses by using many different shell companies.
It alleges that he created websites for fake companies and invented the names of the people who purportedly ran them as part of his scheme.
Mr Golestan was charged with 20 counts of wire fraud in a US court this week. He has yet to respond to a BBC request for comment.
The net addresses were handed over to Mr Golestan by the American Registry of Internet Numbers (Arin) – one of several regional administrators that dole out the few remaining addresses. It is claimed they were then resold allowing him to cash in.
In a statement, Arin said that it started a separate investigation into Mr Golestan after he made a mistake on paperwork filed to claim a block of addresses.
Mr Golestan sued when Arin refused to transfer control of the addresses. The day before the case went to court, Arin claims, Mr Golestan decided he would not testify and instead invoked the US Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.
Among other things, this broad amendment gives defendants the right to refuse to answer questions that would incriminate them.
The collapse of that case led to Mr Golestan being investigated by the FBI and charged by federal prosecutors over the alleged $9m theft.
It also gave Arin the power to take over the net addresses Mr Golestan controlled. He must also pay its fees of $350,000.
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