Pair jailed for multi-million pound sports broadcasting scam
Two men who ran an illegal sports broadcasting service that conned companies across the world out of millions of pounds have been put behind bars.
John Dodds and Jason Graham, also known as Richards, sold a satellite and streaming service scam to more than 270 pubs and clubs in the North-East.
This allowed them to show pay-to-view Premier League football games, boxing matches and top level sport.
Newcastle Crown Court heard bar bosses would have expected to pay thousands of pounds per month to show the popular sports events to customers on large screens.
But the pair, using clever software, complicated computer systems and overseas servers, charged them less than £200 per month.
The court heard how their fraudulent firm, which offered customers 18 "bespoke" channels to chose from, made the men more than £1.5m.
But the court heard their con cost legitimate broadcasters worldwide, such as Sky, BT sports, NBC in America and Fox in Australia, "many multiples of that sum" in lost revenue.
Dodds, 65, of Stainton Road, Seamer, near Scarborough, who drove a Mercedes motor and had a holiday home abroad and Graham, 45, of Front Street, East Boldon, who drove an Audi sports car, both admitted conspiracy to defraud.
Graham, who lived above a bar known as the Mid Club, in Boldon, also admitted perverting justice by tampering with electronic equipment in his home, which contained evidence, when it was raided by the police.
The case against the two men was taken to court as a private prosecution by the Premier League, which has been awarded costs by the judge.
Mr Recorder John Thackray said the victims of the scam include broadcasters, content owners such as the Premier League, publicans and lawful viewers who paid full rate as well as grass roots and lower league football.
The court heard the lower level teams suffered because the illegal streaming allowed top flight sport to be shown during the "closed period" when no such matches should be broadcast to allow actual attendance at games.
The judge jailed the pair, who he said were motivated by "greed", for four-and-a-half years each.
He told them: "This was a sophisticated fraud committed against numerous broadcasters throughout the world and those who have interests in the contents of broadcasts, particularly the Football Association, Premier League."
Also read: Dodgy football steaming salesman hid evidence in his freezerHe added: "You both knew perfectly well you were engaged in fraud because you knew the broadcasters were not being paid any or any appropriate fee for the use of their broadcasts.
"You were able to mislead customers, tell them that the services were lawful for them to use when you knew they were not.
"You exposed publicans to the risk of being sued or prosecuted, which a number were, and which could have had serious consequences in relation to their suitability to hold a liquor licence."
The court heard Dodds set up and was involved in the fraud between April 2009 and June 2016.
Graham joined later and his involvement was between 2012 and 2016.
Prosecutor David Groome told the court: "What the defendants created was their own, highly professional broadcasting service which was being sold to subscribers at a rate designed to undercut any legitimate broadcaster, which they were able to do as they weren’t paying to make any of the programmes or buy from the owners, such as the Premier League."
The court heard the men covered legitimate broadcasters’ logos with the names they used for their own firm, including Full Effects HD Sports, which meant some of the bar bosses who used their fraudulent firm believed they were simply taking advantage of a legal "loophole" and were not breaking the law.
Some of the pubs and clubs who used the illegal service to show matches to customers have been prosecuted and or sued.
Christopher Convey, defending Dodds, said the married dad and grandfather was highly thought of, with a stack of references and no stain on his character
until his involvement in the fraud scam.
Mr Convey said: "It was permitting pubs, in a working class area, to show the match, to show the boxing, that is the reality of the situation."
Daniel Cordey, defending Graham, said the former club DJ got involved in a scam that was already underway and now has legitimate work.
Mr Cordey said Graham had been "seduced" by the ability to earn money but is a well regarded and hard working family man.