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In brief: Five men behind the UK's largest pirate service have been sentenced to a total of more than 30 years following a five-year private prosecution by the Premier League, the country's top-level soccer league. The illegal streams they operated attracted over 50,000 subscribers and made millions of dollars.
Mark Gould, Steven Gordon, Peter Jolley, Christopher Felvus, William Brown, and Zak Smith generated more than $8.6 million between 2016 and 2021 through subscriptions – over 50,000 - to pirate streaming services that offered access to a slew of content, including Premier League matches.
Flawless IPTV, one of the services they operated that ran from 2016 until 2018, copied over 300 TV broadcasts from official and unofficial sources and restreamed them for just over $12 per month. For context, subscribing to the official UK channels that show Premier League matches costs between $75 and $100 per month.
Subscribers and resellers, who charged less than $8 per month for Flawless, generated around $5.7 million in two years, of which kingpin Gould took over $2.1 million.
The Premier League - watching it can be an expensive hobby
A pay dispute between the men led to Gordon and Jolley launching a service called Optimal in 2018, but it failed due to Gould and Brown infecting its servers with malware, writes the Daily Mail.
Flawless 2, aka Shared VPS, launched after Gould was initially arrested in 2018. It made $3.22 million between 2018 and 2021.
UK anti-piracy organization FACT, the Premier League, police forces, and trading standards investigated the men. In one case, there was evidence of payments made to a Shared VPS PayPal account linked to Gould.
Gould, who benefitted most from the crimes, was sentenced to 11 years for two counts of conspiracy to defraud and contempt of court. Gordon, whose share was $1.2 million, received five years and two months. Jolley ($956,000) also received five years and two months. Felvus ($203,450) received three years and 11 months, while Brown ($18,500) received four years and nine months. Zak Smith, who made less than $6,000, did not appear in court. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.
In a separate case, Felvus also pleaded guilty to three charges of possession of an indecent photograph of a child and to committing 13 acts of voyeurism. He received a custodial sentence and was placed on the sex offenders' register for ten years.
TorrentFreak adds that Smith was employed by an anti-piracy company that worked with the Premier League to ensure pirate services were blocked by ISPs when they were broadcast. He is said to have acted as a mole, selling information gathered from his place of work.