5 March 2024

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at City of London Police carried out a week of action, carrying out interviews across the country as part of a crackdown on the supply of illegal streaming services, with a focus on individuals selling modified fire sticks.

The operation, in conjunction with FACT and the Premier League, targeted 11 individuals across the UK selling illegal access to premium TV content, including live Premier League matches via modified or ‘fully loaded’ smart TV devices or sticks.

Officers travelled to various locations, including Portsmouth, Wales, Hartlepool, Middlesborough, Leeds, Manchester and Bury to carry out interviews.

One person was arrested and 10 others were interviewed under caution.

Kieron Sharp, CEO at FACT, commented:

“The success achieved through this targeted operation is directly attributable to the outstanding effort and robust support from PIPCU. By implementing these measures, a strong message has been conveyed: piracy is a criminal act that is treated with the utmost seriousness and decisive action will be taken against suppliers of illicit services regardless of their size or scale.”

“We remain vigilant in monitoring platforms, including modified fire sticks that promote and distribute illegal streams, taking decisive action against those selling illegal access to premium TV content. FACT and its partners are determined to disrupt these criminal operations and non-compliance will lead to further law enforcement action”.

All 11 people spoken to by officers were given a conditional caution, stating they were to cease their activity and take down their advertising and social media channels.

Detective Chief Inspector Emma Warbey, from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at City of London Police, said:

“Illegal streaming is a huge issue for the industry and while it may seem like a low-risk, high-reward crime, the proceeds are used to fund other serious forms of criminal activity. At the same time, it can expose end users to the risks of data theft, fraud and malware.

“By targeting grassroots sellers, we are sending out a clear message that this will not be tolerated. PIPCU will continue to work with partners across law enforcement and the industry to take action against those who provide illegal streaming services and protect consumers against the risks associated with using them.”

A conditional caution gives a person a record on the police system and if they do not abide by the conditions of the caution, they will go to court and face further prosecution.

The operation was the latest in a crackdown on the sale and distribution of illegally modified fire sticks, including the sentencing of one such seller to two and half years imprisonment in October 2023. The sentencing followed a nationwide operation supported by PIPCU and FACT which disrupted more than 1,000 customers of the service.

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