A seven-year process targeting a disabled man who sold Raspberry Pi units modified to obtain Sky subscription content for free concluded at Bolton Crown Court yesterday. After selling the devices on Facebook, 50-year-old Mark Schofield was handed a two-year suspended sentence and community order.
While in the majority of cases these sales fly under the radar, a case that was concluded in Manchester, UK, yesterday reveals a determination by companies including Sky to pursue certain cases for years.
Way back in April 2013, investigators for Sky discovered a Facebook page operated by Mark Schofield of Radcliffe. According to Sky, the man – who is described as disabled – was selling Raspberry Pi devices that had been modified to receive the company’s programming without permission. Schofield used Sky’s logo on his page and was estimated to have sold around a thousand units.
In the same year, an undercover purchase was made directly from Schofield’s home with the buyer granted access to a Facebook support group.
Police Carry Out Raid Four Years Later
Bury Times reports that some four years later in February 2017, Greater Manchester Police executed a warrant at Schofield’s home where police found some items of hardware but no supporting trading evidence or cash.
For reasons that aren’t apparently clear, the investigation into the matter continued for several more years, with Schofield eventually pleading guilty to copyright infringement and fraud offenses.
Court Hearing Seven Years After Investigation Began
Ari Alibhai, who has acted for Sky in the private prosecutions of several individuals in similar matters, told the court that Schofield had sold the devices for between £80 and £100. Additionally, the Manchester man was said to have sold memory cards that were reportedly able to update the devices for around £10 each.
“To borrow an analogy from football, this was a mid-table level of sophistication,” Alibhai said, as per Bolton News.
“The manner in which he traded on Facebook was designed to avoid detection and we have a turnover agreed at £100,000,” adding that potential losses to Sky were in “excess of £1 million.”
Schofield’s defense, Patrick Buckley, described his clients’ activity as a money-making “cottage industry” but one that was operated with naivety in respect of the scale of what he was doing. Buckley told Bolton Crown Court that a prison sentence would be “catastrophic” following the sudden death of Schofield’s wife in 2018.
Huge “Potential Losses” to Sky But No Prison Sentence
After seven years of uncertainty, Schofield learned of his fate yesterday. While the judge found that “potential losses” to Sky could have been “huge”, in this instance there would be no immediate custodial sentence.
After being described as a “model citizen” since the alleged offenses around 2013, the 50-year-old was handed a two-year sentence, suspended for two years. He was also ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and will face a proceeds of crime hearing in October. Whether there will be anything left to seize after a seven-year process will remain to be seen.
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