Six men have been handed prison sentences for their part in a multi-million pound piracy ring which allowed thousands of people to watch Virgin Media’s pay-TV service free of charge.
Collectively the men have been handed over 11 years imprisonment, with two men receiving suspended sentences. The ringleader of the fraud Mahesh Tailor, 51, Leicester, was handed a six year sentence and banned from being a director of a company for eight years.
It was Tailor who found a way to get around the encryption surrounding cable TV channels supplied by Virgin Media. He imported thousands of set-top boxes from the Far East, which he then configured and sold on for up to £180 each.
Tailor built up his client base through internet forums and his own dedicated website, which he used to sell his boxes in bulk to other businesses around the country.
The court heard how Tailor organised people around the country to assist in the set-up of the network so the service was available nationwide. It was set up to communicate with servers overseas which then allowed owners of the set top boxes in England to receive channels via the internet, without paying a subscription to Virgin Media.
Leading IP protection organisation, FACT, welcomes this great result for our member Virgin Media and the wider creative industries.
A FACT spokeswoman said: “Illegally modified set-top boxes are defrauding the creative industries of millions of pounds, as well as short changing hard-working legitimate customers who pay their monthly subscription fee for pay-for TV services.
“This sentencing is a great result for broadcasters, TV and film rights holders as well as the wider creative industries. It sends a strong warning to anyone involved in TV/film piracy that both the police and the courts take this criminality seriously and will pursue those who break the law to bring them to justice.”
Virgin Media spokesperson said: “Fraud costs our customers, our business and the creative industries millions of pounds and we thank the Leicestershire Police for bringing this network of criminals to justice.”
Detective Constable Amrat Bhagwan from Leicestershire Police said: “Officers were deployed at various locations across the country and the network was taken down, rendering the boxes useless.
“When we raided Tailor’s home, we found £250,000 in cash in various rooms. There were similar amounts held in his business bank accounts.
“The boxes were imported from the Far East and documentation showed that Tailor claimed that they were satellite receivers and even paid importation tax on them. He did everything in his power to stop himself appearing on the radar.”
The following defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud virgin media and were sentenced on Friday 26 August:
- Mahesh Tailor, 51, of Hollies Way, Thurnby, Leicester: Sentenced to six years imprisonment and disqualified from being a company director for eight years.
- Jagdish Vegad, 56, of Arbour Road, Leicester: Sentenced to 14 months imprisonment.
- Nicholas Beck, 46, of Bloomfield Road, Leicester: Sentenced to 13 months imprisonment.
- Jitesh Racicchandra, 44, Knowle Road, Bristol: Sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.
- Mark Weighill, 36, of Dunbar Road, Coalville: Sentenced to eight months suspended for two years and 150 hours unpaid work.
- Andrew Wren, 56, Hinckley Road, Coventry: Sentenced to ten months suspended for two years and 150 hours unpaid work.
Two other men will be sentenced at a later date.