A millionaire is £250,000 poorer after he admitted selling dodgy internet television boxes.
Malcolm Mayes was spared jail, but was ordered to pay £80,000 as the profit from his illegal business and £170,000 prosecution costs.
Mayes has assets ‘in excess of £1m’ and can pay all the money within three months, Teesside Crown Court heard.
The former steel erector from Hartlepool made his money legitimately in the 1980s and 90s from a string of businesses, including television aerial erection, loft insulation, a hairdressing shop, and a glass shop.
The 65-year-old turned to crime in 2012 when he started selling modified internet protocol television boxes, prosecutor Richard Wright QC told the court.
“The boxes themselves allow users to receive copyright-free television broadcasts over the internet,” said Mr Wright.
“They can be sold legitimately for about £100.
“Mr Mayes carried out a software modification to the boxes which enabled them to receive subscription-only services. principally Premier League football.
“Using a website called livepubfootball.tv, Mr Mayes sold the boxes for £1,000, mostly to the licensed trade.
“They were dishonestly advertised as ‘100 percent legal’, and were sold over a wide geographical area.
“The attraction to the publican was the price, a Sky subscription for the same service costs about £7,000 a year.”
Mayes, of Egerton Road, West Park, Hartlepool, admitted selling a device to circumvent legal copyright measures, and advertising the same devices for sale, both between 2012 and 2014.
John Elvidge QC, defending, said in mitigation: “Mr Mayes has shown genuine remorse by pleading guilty, which has also saved the public purse the cost of a long trial.
“He is a man of positive good character, having worked all of his life, employing at one time 17 people in the Hartlepool area.
“He moved to Spain in 2001, where he continued to work.
“This has been a lesson learned for Mr Mayes, and one learned at considerable financial cost.”
Judge Simon Hickey sentenced Mayes to 10 months in prison, suspended for one year.
Judge Hickey told Mayes: “I am satisfied this was deliberate offending for financial gain, although there are no other aggravating features.
“Your guilty pleas, genuine remorse, previous good character, and the very low likelihood of re-offending enables me to suspend the sentence.”
The judge ordered £80,000 as the proceeds of crime to be paid within seven days, and £170,00 prosecution costs to be paid within three months.
The case was brought by Hartlepool Borough Council trading standards department.
“Mr Mayes should not be seen as a Robin Hood character,” said trading standards manager Ian Harrison. “He wasn’t stealing from the rich to help the poor, he was stealing to make himself richer.
“In addition, many of the pubs and clubs lost money when the devices did not operate as promised.
“We will continue to target those who make their living from selling counterfeit goods, and those who steal intellectual property in other ways.”
Anyone with information about the sale of illegal television boxes should contact Hartlepool’s trading standards officers on 01429 523354.