Gar­dener’s £5-a-month code scam costs Sky TV £5 mil­lion

Man ad­mits sell­ing cheap ac­cess to pre­mium chan­nels via web fo­rums


A LAND­SCAPE gar­dener ran a racket from his home sell­ing Sky TV de­cryp­tion codes to thou­sands of peo­ple for £5 a month in a scam that is thought to have cost the com­pany up to £4.8 mil­lion.

Gavin Gray, 25, turned to the lu­cra­tive side busi­ness af­ter ob­tain­ing the se­quence of num­bers and let­ters which en­abled peo­ple to gain ac­cess to pre­mium chan­nels on Sky’s net­work, in­clud­ing sports and movies, for a frac­tion of the price charged by the chan­nel.

He earned more than £120,000 af­ter build­ing up a base of 1,800 “cus­tomers” whom he had of­fered the sup­pos­edly se­cret codes through se­cret fo­rums on the in­ter­net.

But he was caught – and £44,260 was dis­cov­ered in cash and a hoard of dig­i­tal boxes in a safe at his home in Bell­shill, North La­nark­shire – af­ter he was duped into send­ing the pass­words and codes to copy­right in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Gray pled guilty at Hamil­ton Sher­iff Court yes­ter­day to the scam which he ran be­tween Jan­uary 2010 and July 2014.

The court heard that the codes were given to him on the ba­sis he would only use them in his home for per­sonal use.

It is es­ti­mated the il­licit ven­ture cost Sky up to £1.2m per year, through lost sub­scrip­tion pay­ments. The cost of adding Sky Sports to a ba­sic Sky sub­scrip­tion is £13.75 a month, while the price is £59.50 to in­clude Sky Movies.

The court heard that Gray used a num­ber of dif­fer­ent fo­rums and web­sites to at­tract cus­tomers ea­ger to save money.

He also set up a card-shar­ing scheme among his clients which con­tained the de­cryp­tion codes on them.

Po­lice were called in af­ter Gray was lured into send­ing pass­words and codes to in­ves­ti­ga­tors and his home was raided in July 2014. De­tec­tives found a safe con­tain­ing £44,260 in cash and quan­ti­ties of dig­i­tal boxes and pass cards.

De­pute fis­cal Cal­lum Forsyth said: “The ac­cused was sup­ply­ing the en­crypted con­trol word through his server to the client’s box.

“Clients us­ing the ser­vice must have the user name, pass­word, in­ter­net ad­dress and port num­ber for a card-shar­ing server en­tered into their client ca­ble set top box. This was pro­vided to them by the ac­cused.

“No au­tho­ri­sa­tion had been given to the ac­cused to pro­vide ac­cess to the broad­cast­ing to oth­ers. At that time the full Sky pack­age cost £57 per month.

“The po­ten­tial monthly loss to Sky as a re­sult of this op­er­a­tion was £102,600, which amounts to £1,231,200 per year based on 1,800 clients as claimed by the ac­cused dur­ing the search.”

Gray also ad­mit­ted run­ning a card-shar­ing ser­vice to pro­vide a means of de­cod­ing the en­crypted pro­gram­ming and to pos­sess­ing a de­vice to en­able cir­cum­ven­tion of en­crypted satel­lite broad­casts.

He pled guilty to try­ing to sell an unau­tho­rised de­coder in 2014.

El­speth For­rest, de­fend­ing, said: “He is em­ployed as a land­scaper and has dealt with this mat­ter re­spon­si­bly by ten­der­ing an early plea of guilty.”

Sher­iff Thomas Mil­lar de­ferred sen­tence for re­ports, adding: “I’m re­quired to get re­ports be­fore de­cid­ing on a sen­tence, you have dealt with this mat­ter re­spon­si­bly so I will con­tinue bail.”

A Sky spokes­woman said: “Broad­cast­ing Pay TV con­tent il­le­gally is dam­ag­ing to the me­dia in­dus­try, which em­ploys thou­sands of peo­ple across Scot­land. This case demon­strates how se­ri­ously the courts take piracy and we hope will high­light the con­se­quences of en­gag­ing in such ac­tiv­ity.”

‘‘ Broad­cast­ing Pay TV il­le­gally is dam­ag­ing to the me­dia in­dus­try, which em­ploys thou­sands of peo­ple

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