Advanced Television

Convicted streamer flees UK

June 17, 2022

By Colin Mann

Michael Hornung, who was convicted of selling set-top boxes giving illegal access to Sky TV, BT Sport and Virgin Media, has fled to Cyprus.

Hornung is estimated to have made around £350,000 (€409,000) by selling some 2,700 devices over a three-year period across Greater Manchester in the northwest of England.

UK intellectual property protection organisation FACT, with the assistance of the Greater Manchester Police, investigated the activities of an online supplier of television set-top boxes which enabled access to subscription television content without payment being made to the broadcasters. The investigation commenced in April 2014 and FACT identified the supplier as Michael Hornung, residing in Cheshire and trading under the name ‘NoHatsNoTrainers’ via the online platform CS World.

In June 2014, a test purchase was conducted, and it was found that the device was enabled to access hundreds of channels from Virgin’s cable subscription service, including Sky Sports and Sky Movies, without any payment being made.

Hornung was arrested in February 2017 and was charged with various offences including fraud. He later absconded from the UK but was tried in his absence and was found guilty on all charges on May 13th 2022.

FACT Chief Executive Kieron Sharp said: “We thank Greater Manchester Police for their work on this, their support and assistance is vital in procuring evidence for prosecution.  FACT will continue to monitor channels used to advertise, market, sell and distribute apps, devices, and streams and take action against suppliers and operators.”

“Individuals are motivated by the financial benefits from providing illegal content, but FACT is leading the way in combating digital piracy and, in this case, have worked closely with Greater Manchester Police to hold this person accountable for his criminal activities.”

“This result should provide a warning to anyone involved in supplying illegal content. FACT’s work with broadcasters and rights holders will continue in order to crack down on illegal streaming and to hold those behind it accountable for their actions.”

On sentencing, Judge Angela Nield noted that the offence had affected a large number of victims including not only the rights holders, but also the legitimate subscribers of pay-TV services who effectively subsidise those who unlawfully access pay-TV.

Hornung was convicted and sentenced for:

  • Supplying articles for use in fraud, contrary to section 7(1) of the Fraud Act 2006
  • Selling an unauthorised decoder, contrary to section 297A(I)(a) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
  • Advertising unauthorised decoders for sale contrary to section 297A(I)(d) of the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988

In his absence, Hornung was sentenced to four and a half years in prison, having fled to Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus, a territory with which the UK has no extradition treaty.

The judge decided that Hornung had deliberately absconded, suggesting that it was not unreasonable to conclude that was a planned escape. “These offences were sophisticated and required a degree of technical proficiency and planning and were conducted over a sustained period of time.”

Ari Alibhai, prosecuting, said: “This was a sophisticated and remunerative business supplying customers the means to access TV without paying the broadcasters or others with intellectual property rights to that content”. A year’s worth of PayPal transactions indicated an annual turnover of around £125,000.

A proceeds of crime hearing will take place on August 10th.

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