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Pay-TV pirate spared jail

A man from the north-east of England has escaped a prison sentence despite making over £46,000 (€63,000) by illegally supplying satellite television channels.

Alexander Woodmass had around 50 customers, including pubs and clubs in the North-East, who paid him for their Sky coverage.

Durham Crown Court was told the fraud potentially cost the broadcaster £112,000 in lost subscriptions over the two-and-a-half year period.

According to the prosecution, the defendant was running a card sharing network, effectively running a business. “He was in control of the software and if subscriptions were not paid viewing could be stopped,” said the prosecution, suggesting that Woodmass’s culpability was high because of the sophisticated nature of the offence, sustained over a lengthy period of time.

Woodmass admitted six counts of fraud, covering a period from April 2011 and December 2013.

Three charges relate to possession of articles for use in fraud, a micro-server and PC tower both containing card-sharing software, and card-sharing data. Two counts relate to supplying articles for use in fraud, satellite receiving boxes and card-sharing data capable of receiving Sky TV without paying subscription. The sixth charge is one of obtaining services by deception, namely subscription owner TV broadcast content when no payment was made, gaining access via a card-sharing server.

Woodmass’s defence solicitor, said, in mitigation, that he had spent almost £20,000 on equipment and cards to enable him to run the business. “While he has made gains I would submit that the gain is not so large when one looks at the outlay he has put into it,” he argued.

Judge Robin Mairs sentenced Woodmass to two years in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered him to do 250 hours unpaid work. “You must have known the illegality and the seriousness of what you were doing. You did this quite clearly for money and that money was sizeable. You have come within a hair’s breadth of prison today,” he warned.

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