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Arrests made in pirated STB operation

The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Unit (PIPCU) has been involved in a day of action to disrupt the sale of set-top boxes which have been illegally modified to stream pirated channels which include movies and sports.

The co-ordinated operation resulted in six arrests, following the execution of seven search warrants and inspections at addresses in the northern English towns and cities of Consett, Lanchester, Washington, Gateshead, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Seamer.

The activity which involved PIPCU, the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), the Northeast Regional Specialist Operations Unit (NERSOU) and regional Trading Standards also led to the seizure of 42 Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) set-top boxes which are suspected to be illegally modified to allow access to subscription-only channels.

PIPCU officers executed a search warrant at an address in Sunderland where a 37 year-old man was arrested on suspicion of distributing an unauthorised decoder, money laundering and making/supplying items for use in fraud.

The intelligence-led investigation was initiated by FACT in February 2016 following a third-party referral received which indicated that illegally modified IPTV boxes were being sold on the Internet from the locations in the northeast of England. A multi-agency working group was established to bring together the investigative expertise at FACT, PIPCU and NERSOU police forces (Northumbia, Durham and Cleveland police) along with Trading Standards.

The head of PIPCU, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Ratcliffe, described the operation as an excellent example of multi-agency working across force boundaries to tackle piracy and those intent on making money at the expense of honest subscription payers who deserve a fair deal. “Set-top box piracy is costing the entertainment industry millions every year and it invites possible risks from malware and viruses into homes where these devices are in use. We routinely seek to identify and disrupt those intent on making quick cash from piracy and will use every enforcement opportunity to bring them to justice,” he declared.

Director General of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), Kieron Sharp, said the joint operation in the North East sent a clear message to anyone involved in the sale of illegal TV streaming boxes that FACT, along with the police and Trading Standards, are taking this crime very seriously. “Consumers need to be aware that these cheap pre-configured TV boxes are illegal. They are stealing copyrighted content and starving UK businesses from revenue, as well as putting consumers’ devices at risk of malware and ransomware.”

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit is a specialist national police unit dedicated to protecting the UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content from intellectual property crime.

The operationally-independent unit was launched in September 2013 with funding from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The unit is based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police, which is the National Policing Lead for Fraud.

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