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An illegal streaming gang who offered cut-price subscriptions for Premier League matches to more than 50,000 people have been jailed.
The Premier League said five men were convicted of conspiracy to defraud, money laundering and contempt of court after generating more than £7 million in five years.
Mark Gould, from London, was reported to have masterminded the operation and was handed an 11-year prison sentence at Chesterfield Crown Court on Tuesday.
The 36-year-old and co-defendants Steven Gordon, Peter Jolley, William Brown and Christopher Felvus offered illegal access to matches from hundreds of channels around the world, as well as tens of thousands of on-demand films and TV shows.
A sixth gang member, Zak Smith, failed to appear at court for sentencing and a warrant has been issued for his arrest, the Premier League said.
We are pleased that through rulings such as this, the courts continue to show that they recognise the importance of safeguarding the Premier League’s rights
The league added that the illegal streaming businesses had 30 employees, with one undercover at a specialist anti-piracy company.
Brown, from Stoke-on-Trent, denied the offences, claiming to have been an undercover informant acting in the interests of law enforcement authorities and broadcasters
But the 33-year-old was unanimously convicted by a jury after a seven-week trial as the Premier League said he used his technical skills to hack legitimate customers’ accounts to access and copy streams – intending for them to take the blame if identified by authorities.
The prosecution was supported by Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s trading standards team and the intellectual property protection organisation Fact.
Premier League general counsel Kevin Plumb said: “Today’s sentencing is the result of a long and complex prosecution of a highly sophisticated operation.
“The sentences handed down, which are the longest sentences ever issued for piracy-related crimes, vindicate the efforts made to bring these individuals to justice and reflect the severity and extent of the crimes.
“This prosecution is another concrete example of the clear links between piracy and wider criminality, a warning we repeatedly make.
“While most Premier League fans enjoy watching our games in a safe way, those who were customers of these services were effectively supporting individuals involved in other sinister and dangerous organised crime.
“The Premier League’s substantial financial contribution to the entire football pyramid is made possible through the ability to sell our broadcast rights.
“We are pleased that through rulings such as this, the courts continue to show that they recognise the importance of safeguarding the Premier League’s rights.
“We will continue to protect our rights and our fans by investigating and prosecuting illegal operators at all levels.”
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