Three men who took part in a massive fraud by selling set-top boxes which allowed people unlawful free access to Virgin Media’s cable television channels have been jailed for a total of 15 years.
The men manufactured, imported and supplied more than 400,000 set-top boxes across the UK during a three-and-a-half year operation, a jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court was told.
The scam, described as the largest commercial fraud to have been prosecuted in the UK, is thought to have cost Virgin Media some £144 million a year.
The set-top boxes were sold between January 2005 and November 2008 to suppliers and dealers across the UK and Northern Ireland.
Although it was unlawful to use the boxes, consumers were tricked into spending hundreds of pounds on the devices because they gave access to Virgin Media’s cable television services without subscription.
A Virgin Media spokesman said the company’s counter-measures regularly disabled unofficial boxes while the roll-out of new encryption technology across the cable network meant that all such set-top boxes were now useless.
Virgin Media launched a private prosecution following a large-scale joint operation with the Metropolitan Police at Redbridge, Essex, and New Scotland Yard.
Munaf Ahmed Zinga, 40, from Plaistow, Essex, who traded the Eurovox-branded set-top boxes through his business Rayyonics Ltd, got an eight-year sentence. His assistant, Mukandun Pillai, 39, from Hainault, was jailed for six years. The jury convicted them of conspiracy to defraud.
The third man, Salim Patel, from Plaistow, was jailed for 12 months. He had earlier pleaded guilty to his part in the conspiracy by working as a delivery driver for the company, transporting the set-top boxes to suppliers and collecting cash in return.
Judge Inigo Bing said when he sentenced the men last week: “As the full programme of TV services can be expensive, the defendant’s product had great appeal to those members of the public who had less than exemplary scruples. The potential market for free TV was enormous.”
Federal Court Enters Permanent Injunction Against Sonicview IKS Dongles and Awards $14.4M in Damages
On July 19, 2011, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California entered a permanent injunction against former Sonicview employee Chris Whitcomb and his business ProSonicview. Whitcomb used his ProSonicview business as a “dealer” of various Sonicview related products and was sued by DISH Network, EchoStar Technologies and NagraStar earlier this year after he ignored a prior preliminary injunction barring the Sonicview iHub dongle. Whitcomb attempted to re-package the iHub and sell it under the names “SV-Lan” and “NewLink”. Earlier in the case the court granted DISH Network‘s preliminary injunction finding that DISH Network was likely to prevail on the DMCA and Communications Act claims asserting these devices were primarily designed for piracy.
The Court’s July 19 Order entered a permanent injunction against further piracy-related sales by Whitcomb – including sales of the Sonicview iHub, SV-Lan and New Link. The Court also ordered Whitcomb to destroy all remaining inventory of these piracy products and to verify the destruction under oath with the Court within 60 days. Finally, the Court assessed statutory damages against Whitcomb under the Communications Act and awarded DISH Network $10,000 per device sold totaling $14.4 Million.
Dish Network, EchoStar, NagraStar, and Bell ExpressVu obtained permanent injunctions against Andrew Genovese a.k.a. “ANDREWY3K” a.k.a. “N3XTGEN” a.k.a. “GGENOV0571″ of Ontario, Canada, who operated the piracy forum web site FTABins. The permanent injunctions were part of a settlement of claims that the companies asserted against Genovese in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The permanent injunctions prevent Genovese from operating the FTABins web site or any other piracy web site, and otherwise participating in, or aiding and abetting others engaged in, piracy activities. For several years, the FTABins web site was a popular piracy forum web site. The settlement represents another major victory in the companies’ continuing efforts to combat piracy.
On June 2, 2011, the United States Federal Court for the Western District of Wisconsin entered a Preliminary Injunction against the website www.aaafta.com and the site’s owner and co-Defendant Mark Bender. The Court’s Order required Defendants and all domain hosts to “immediately cease making the www.aaafta.com website and its contents available on the internet by taking the website and its contents offline, and to immediately freeze, preserve…the website and its contents” effecting a virtual seizure and impoundment of the site pending final resolution of the case. DISH Network, EchoStar Technologies and NagraStar filed suit against Bender and the website on April 28, 2011 for the site’s distribution of piracy-related software files and support. The Court previously granted NagraStar’s motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and virtual seizure of the aaafta.com site on May 13, 2011. NagraStar and DISH continue to investigate online sites and forums which promotes unauthorized reception of the DISH Network signal.
On May 25, 2011, the United States District Court for the Central District of California entered a consent Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction against Warren Scheibe, www.nFusionOnline.com and Scheibe’s distribution companies Forward Motion Products, LLC and Forward Motion, Inc. DISH Network, NagraStar and EchoStar Technologies filed suit against Scheibe and his companies in June 2010 for their role in the marketing and distribution of nFusion-brand receivers and components. The Court’s Order enjoins defendants from marketing or distributing similar devices in the future and awarded DISH Network and NagraStar a judgment in the amount of twenty five million ($25,000,000) against the distribution companies. Scheibe has also forfeited Defendants’ substantial remaining nFusion inventory to NagraStar for destruction, as well as turning over the various nFusion-related websites used for marketing and online product sales. The Court’s permanent injunction further prevents Defendants from any future assistance in circumvention which will carry a statutory penalty of up to $110,000.00 per violation.