A man from the Scottish town of Belshill in Scotland has been sentenced to unpaid community work by a Sheriff Court after pleading guilty to four charges of fraud, and offences under the Copyright Designs Patents Act 1988.
Following a multi-agency operation involving Police Scotland, intellectual property protection organisation FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft), Sky, Virgin Media and other agencies in 2014, Gavin Gray was arrested for fraudulent activity in what is commonly known in the industry as ‘card sharing’.
This is the first conviction of its type in Scotland. This cyber-enabled crime allows protected encrypted television broadcasts to be viewed without a valid subscription to the broadcast provider.
Gray advertised his criminal business on dedicated card sharing websites and forums, supplying unlawful access to homes across Scotland.
When officers searched his home in Mossend, Belshill they seized £44,500 (€51,444) hidden in a safe in the loft. Police were also able to later seize £80,000 from his bank account.
Sheriff Thomas Millar decided not to send Gray to prison and instead gave him an electronic tag and ordered him .to do unpaid community work.
Chief Inspector Mark Leonard, the lead for counterfeit and intellectual property for Police Scotland said, “Officers conducted an operation in conjunction with a number of agencies including FACT, at the home address of Gavin Gray where they seized computer equipment and large sums of cash.”
“The subsequent investigation revealed that Mr Gray was the lynchpin in large-scale, organised illegal activity known in the industry as ‘card sharing’ with clients across the UK and internationally, serviced by his online website from his Bellshill base. This activity allows people to electronically purchase command lines to data held on computer servers that provides them with access to premium digital broadcast channels.”
“Although people may think that this will have little impact on major broadcasters, make no mistake, the amount of money being lost is on a large scale. It’s obviously very tempting for people to think they are getting a bargain but it’s important to remember that there are organised criminals behind these fraudulent schemes, often supporting and funding other more serious crime, such as human trafficking and drugs, so people need to be aware of that. Purchasing a ‘so-called bargain’ may lead to a visit from the police at your door so think twice before saying yes,” he warned.
“Officers working at the Scottish Crime Campus and the Scottish Anti Illicit Trade Group (SAITG) recognise that organised criminals are diversifying into products and commodities where there is perceived less risk. Police Scotland will continue to work in partnership with private industry and specialists to deter global crime trends that are harming our communities,” he confirmed.
Kieron Sharp, Director General of FACT, said “Whether it’s card sharing or IPTV set-top boxes, allowing access to premium pay-for TV without the proper licence is illegal. FACT takes this criminality very seriously and will continue to work with Police Scotland and our members including BT Sport, the Premier League, Sky and Virgin Media to ensure that this illegal activity is disrupted.”