The owner and operator of a major pirate streaming service, and mass supplier of illicit streaming devices that provided illegal access to Premier League football, has been jailed for five years and three months. John Haggerty, the owner of Evolution Trading, appeared in Newcastle Crown Court in the north-east of England for sentencing after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud and dishonestly obtaining services for another, contrary to the Fraud Act.
His conviction further underlines the fact that supplying these devices and other pirate services is illegal. The case is also the first example of the Courts confirming what the UK Government has already made clear – that using the devices themselves is illegal, with the Judge expressly warning that Haggerty put all his thousands of customers at risk of prosecution.
Evolution Trading, run by Haggerty and his wife Mary Gilfillan who was also convicted of fraud offences in this case and given a two-year suspended sentence, sold more than 8,000 illegal devices that were loaded with add-ons to enable publicans and consumers to view illegal streams of Premier League football. Evolution also created and sold access to its own illegal streaming service – infusum.tv – to thousands of customers. Between March 2013 and July 2015, the operators of Evolution generated more than £750,000 through their illegal activity.
The criminal activity carried out by Haggerty went beyond selling access to illegal content: he had multiple passports in different names, set up an offshore ‘dummy company’ in Nevis to hide the true purpose of his business and, in collusion with his wife, supplied the Immigration Service with false documents to sponsor an Egyptian national who maintained the illegal streaming service for the company. During the investigation, it transpired that Haggerty previously spent time in prison in the US between 2009 to 2012 following a serious fraud conviction.
“This case demonstrates how seriously the Courts are dealing with criminals involved in the supply of illicit streaming devices and services that provide illegal access to Premier League football and other popular content,” commented Premier League Director of Legal Services, Kevin Plumb. “The fact that a major supplier was engaged in so much criminal behaviour – from using multiple passports in different names to lying to the Immigration Service – should be a warning to the authorities and consumers about the types of people involved in this activity. It also serves as a reminder to people that they take huge risks by handing over bank details and personal data to rogue operators like Evolution and infusum.tv.”
“The Premier League is currently engaged in one of the biggest and most successful anti-piracy programmes in the World and its own investigations, along with those by Northumberland Trading Standards and FACT, have helped bring these criminals to justice. The ability that Premier League clubs have to develop and acquire talented players, to build and improve stadiums and to support communities and schools, is predicated on being able to market, sell and protect commercial rights. This makes the protection of our copyright hugely important to the future health of English football and beyond, something we are pleased the Courts continue to recognise with judgments like this one.”
“This sentencing is another step forward in the right direction to tackling the issue of illegal streaming, declared Kieron Sharp, CEO of UK intellectual property protection body FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft). “We will continue to work with The Premier League, Industry and law enforcement agencies across the UK to clampdown on the sale of illicit streaming devices as they pose a real threat to the creative industries, the UK economy and the livelihoods of the 1.9 million people working behind the scenes of our favourite sport, TV and film. The public should be aware that selling devices or subscriptions that allow access to premium content you normally pay for is illegal. Similarly using one of these methods to stream premium TV, sports and films for which you should have an official subscription is also breaking the law,” he warned.