Man jailed for making over £2 million from illegally pre-configured TV set-top boxes
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A man who made over £2 million by selling set-top boxes that enabled buyers to watch premium television content without a subscription has been jailed.
Halton Mark Anthony Powell, 44, of Maybank Avenue, Hornchurch, launched Droidsticks Ltd. in 2013 and sold the set-top boxes through his shop, website and an online marketplace. An investigation by City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) revealed that Powell made £2,344,949 in sales through the online marketplace.
Powell pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court on 23 August 2022 to supplying articles for use in fraud. He was sentenced to two years and six months imprisonment at the same court on 11 November 2022.
T/ Detective Sergeant Peter Gartland, from City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), said:
“Powell attempted to hide the illegitimate nature of his business by concealing evidence that he was selling products pre-configured to stream Sky Sports and Sky Cinema. However, PIPCU officers were able to prove he was aware the set-top boxes were being used for this purpose by thousands of customers.
“It is vital to remember that watching premium content without a subscription is illegal – and enabling access to it can land you with a criminal record, as this case shows.”
Matt Hibbert, Sky’s Director of Anti-Piracy, UK & Irelandsaid:
“We’d like to thank PIPCU for their support in bringing this case to a successful conclusion. The financial sums involved and the length of the sentence handed down today underline the seriousness of this type of criminality.
“We’ll continue to work with law enforcement and our industry partners to protect consumers and take action against those organisations intent on stealing our content.”
The investigation was launched in March 2015 after an online marketplace reported that a large volume of set-top boxes were being sold through an account owned by Droidsticks. The company was selling set-top boxes pre-loaded with a piece of software referred to as the ‘Droidsticks Wizard’, which enabled users to install add-ons to access Sky’s sports and movie channels, as well as other premium television content. Set-top boxes that contain this software at the point of sale are illegal.
Powell was arrested by PIPCU officers, and they seized 1,300 set-top boxes from a storage unit and another 121 boxes from Powell’s shop. A review of Powell’s bank account showed that he made a total of £2,344,949 from the sale of 24,515 set-top boxes through the marketplace.
During his police interview, Powell answered ‘no comment’ to all questions.
Following the sentencing, the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that it will commence proceedings for confiscation orders against any available assets.
On Monday 14 November, another man was handed an 18-month community order at Birmingham Crown Court after he made around £50,000 in revenue by selling illegally pre-configured set-top boxes online.
In addition to the community order, Harleen Suri, 34, of Woodfields, Harborne, was sentenced to complete 140 hours unpaid work, wear an electronic tag and observe a curfew for three months, and pay £6,443 in compensation, £1,500 in costs and a victim surcharge.