Birmingham man sentenced for defrauding Virgin Media
24th May 2011
The final member of a gang of TV fraudsters from Birmingham has been sentenced to six years imprisonment at Birmingham Crown Court for illegally modifying digital set-top-boxes enabling customers to access digital TV subscription channels for free.
Mr Subhan Ali, aged 29 of Turner Street, Sparkbrook, is the last defendant to stand trial having fled to Pakistan before his hearing took place. The trial was held in his absence last August where he was subsequently found guilty and sentenced to a jail term for his offences against Virgin Media in April 2011. He is now due to receive further sentencing for absconding from his trial.
Mr Ali was one of four people from the Birmingham area to be sentenced for this fraudulent behaviour. 35-year-old Mohammed Ali of Osborne Road was sentenced to five and a half years in prison, while 28-year-old Umar Manir of Salisbury Road, Moseley, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and agreed to pay Virgin Media compensation. The third man involved in defrauding the company, 27-year-old Shaukat Ali of Abbotsford Road Sparkbrook, was sentenced to 52 weeks imprisonment, suspended for two years and ordered to perform 250 hours of unpaid work.
The investigation commenced with arrests in April 2008, when Police raided two residential addresses and one commercial premise in the Sparkbrook area of Birmingham. A significant number of items were seized during the raids, including large quantities of cash and approximately 2,000 illegal digital set-top boxes. Two vehicles were also seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Neighbourhood Policing Sgt Dave Farrell said: “I would urge the public to be aware that using set-top boxes that have been illegally modified to receive digital TV subscription channels for free are committing a serious criminal offence. Officers are continuing their enquiries, speaking with those who still continue to view illegal channels. Anyone receiving channels that should be paid for are at risk of being prosecuted.”
Malcolm Davies, Virgin Media’s head of fraud and security said: “This sentence should act as a serious warning to others to steer clear of selling illegal TV or broadband equipment. We take this matter extremely seriously and will continue to work closely with police forces and forensic teams throughout the UK to prosecute individuals connected with this type of fraud.
Virgin Media worked with CYFOR – a leading forensic investigation company – to assist with the investigation. Keith Cottenden, forensic services director at CYFOR, helped to uncover crucial evidence that proved the boxes had been illegally modified.
Keith Cottenden, commented: “Many people simply don’t realise that they are even committing a crime by receiving channels for free. The technology is now in place to enable us to find other perpetrators and stamp out this kind of crime. We hope the evidence collated as part of the investigations sets a precedent to prevent future fraudulent activity.”
Anyone with information about people supplying or using illicit equipment to receive Virgin Media TV channels can call a confidential hotline: 0800 096 7800.