The creator of a website which illegally screened live English Premier League football matches over the Internet has been sent to prison for two years. Kevin Broughton was sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court, having pleaded guilty to offences of fraud at a hearing in September.
Broughton, of Tummon Road, Sheffield, developed and ran a subscription site from his home in Sheffield, charging an estimated 10,000 customers up to £29.99 (€35.66) a season to watch Premier League football matches. He was illegally relaying matches that were being broadcast by satellite TV company Sky. His operation breached Sky’s exclusive rights to show the games.
Premier League officials lodged a complaint about the website with the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) in January 2012, sparking the investigation which would lead to the prosecution of 30-year-old Broughton, who deposited some of the cash he made in overseas bank accounts.
The investigation concluded that he provided false identity details to Sky and took out a number of subscriptions with the intention of infringing the company’s intellectual property rights. Both offences were sufficient for him to be charged with the fraud and copyright offences.
Kieron Sharp, FACT Director General, said the case conclusively showed that criminals were moving online to run sophisticated and profitable illegal operations. “We continue to work to protect our members’ intellectual property and to ensure that they can continue to invest in exciting new ways to watch sports, films and television programmes,” he confirmed
Expert financial investigators from the East Midlands Regional Asset Recovery Team (EMRART) found evidence that subscriptions to the site had yielded more than £500,000 between early 2010 and August 2012.
Rachel Haywood of EMRART said that her team’s element of the investigation found Broughton’s crime made a significant difference to his income in a very short period of time. “Broughton quickly developed the size and sophistication of the website, increasing his customer profile and making vast sums of money. He was able to deposit tens of thousands of pounds into an overseas bank account and set up an offshore company registered in the Central American country of Belize, intended to launder his proceeds”
According to Haywood, the case demonstrated how effective multi-agency law enforcement investigations could be. “FACT and the EMRART worked in conjunction to evidence the fraud and copyright offences and the EMRART have been able to demonstrate the financial benefit to Mr Broughton from his criminal activity” she noted. “This partnership was co-ordinated through the Government Agencies Intelligence Network (GAIN), which brings together enforcement and intelligence teams from different public sector organisations. The cyber world has become a tempting and potentially lucrative option for criminals and we will continue to work with our partnership agencies to investigate these crimes, bring offenders to justice and recover the criminal proceeds.”
Following sentence, the EMRART will be taking action to recover the assets that Broughton has accumulated through his criminal activity.