Sky codes fraudster dodges jail

Court heard drug dealer Michael Jackson failed to appear for trial last summer.
Court heard drug dealer Michael Jackson failed to appear for trial last summer.

A fraudster who made £120,000 by selling illicit satellite television packages on the internet has avoided a jail sentence.

Operating from the bedroom of his Mossend home, Gavin Gray was potentially costing broadcast giant Sky £1.2 million a year with his cheap deals.

However, Sheriff Thomas Millar decided today not to send the landscaper to prison and instead gave him an electronic tag and ordered him to do unpaid community work.

Gray (25), of Asquith Place, Mossend, appeared at Hamilton Sheriff Court where he admitted charges of fraud and breach of copyright.

The scam ran from January 2010 for more than four years. His home was raided by investigators in July 2014.

The court heard Gray provided his customers with codes which allowed them access to satellite television including Sky Sports.

Callum Forsyth, prosecuting, said the full Sky package costs £57 per month, but through a website Gray was offering rates of just £5 for 30 days and £30 per year.

An investigator from the Federation Against Copyright Theft posed as a customer and contacted Gray’s website. He was given a password and user name along with instructions on how to log into a server.

Mr Forsyth told the court: “He was able to view content including Sky Sports and made payment through a PayPal account used by the accused.”

Mr Forsyth said £44,260 was seized from a safe at Gray’s home. The accused admitted having 1800 customers paying £5 per month and it was found that £120,434 had been paid into his PayPay account over a two-year period.

During an internet chat he boasted of potentially costing Sky £208,000 a month in lost business.

However, defence agent Kevin McCarron said his client hadn’t any idea he’d make so much money when he set up the scheme.

Mr McCarron stated: “He doesn’t have a lavish lifestyle and when he set up this venture it was simply to save up money for a deposit on a house.

“The initial levels of return were fairly small and he had no idea they would accelerate to this extent.

“He’s a hard working man who’s careful and responsible. He didn’t go on holiday during the five years this was going on. He continues to live with his mother and grandfather, and he doesn’t even have a flash car.”

Mr McCarron said Gray had kept all the money he earned and as a result will hand over a six-figure sum to prosecutors under the Proceeds of Crime scheme.

Sheriff Millar, who was given references for the first offender, acknowledged the sums involved in the fraud were significant, but said Gray would have to pay back the cash. He had saved the public purse by pleading guilty and it would cost money to keep him jail.

The sheriff ordered him to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and imposed an electronic tagging order which prevents Gray leaving home at night seven days a week for a year.

Sheriff Millar warned him: “This is by no means an easy option.”