North Walsham man jailed for TV set-top box fraud

PUBLISHED: 08:27 07 July 2018 | UPDATED: 15:46 07 July 2018

Glenn Burrows of North Walsham. 

Picture: Mark Bullimore

Glenn Burrows of North Walsham. Picture: Mark Bullimore

Archant Norfolk 2015

A Norfolk fraudster sold thousands of TV set-top boxes to customers across the UK allowing them to illegally watch Sky.

The set-top boxes meant customers could watch paid-for content like Game of Thrones on Sky, withouth subscribing. Photo: (HBO via AP)The set-top boxes meant customers could watch paid-for content like Game of Thrones on Sky, withouth subscribing. Photo: (HBO via AP)

Glenn Burrows, from North Walsham, started selling the boxes after losing his job at Waitrose and struggling to make ends meet, Norwich Crown Court heard.

The 33-year-old was jailed on Friday for 22 months.

Burrows was also banned from selling products online for five years.

He set up two companies called Ooberstick Ltd and Oober Media Limited at his home on Princes Street in North Walsham in 2016.

The boxes meant users could watch Sky channels without subscribing. Photo: PA WireThe boxes meant users could watch Sky channels without subscribing. Photo: PA Wire

The devices, called Oobersticks, which were imported from China, were then distributed to customers by his co-defendant Darren Wicks, 45.

The court heard more than £500,000 was paid into the firm’s bank account, meaning an estimated 3,000 devices were sold.

Wicks, from Chippenham in Wiltshire, was given a 20-month sentence suspended for two years.

He was initially paid just £100 a week to package and post the devices to customers for Burrows.

Burrows had been warned in March 2016 that he was breaking the law by selling the devices.

But he ignored the warnings.

After getting a warning letter from anti-piracy group FACT, Burrows messaged Wicks saying: “You will be by my side on the run from the FBI”.

The devices gave customers illegal access to subscription only channels, including Sky Sports and BT.

Det Sgt Samantha Shevlin, of the Norfolk and Suffolk Police Cyber Crime Unit, said: “The sale of these boxes has a huge effect on the content owners, broadcasters and the wider public who will end up paying the price for others’ dishonesty.”

In mitigation for Burrows, Andrew Oliver said his client had made a “very foolish decision”.

But he said Burrows was seeking to provide for his family after losing his job because of mental health issues.

He said Burrows had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety and urged Judge Maureen Bacon to avoid giving him a prison sentence.

But Judge Bacon told Burrows: “Ultimately this was your doing.”

Wicks, meanwhile, will have to complete 250 hours of unpaid work.

Both men pleaded guilty to intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence under the Fraud Act.

Burrows also admitted money laundering through selling the streaming devices.

After Burrows was arrested in December 2016, many customers got in touch with this newspaper stating the set-top devices they had paid for either did not arrive or did not work.

Customers went through banks to cancel payments and to try to get refunds.

But one said yesterday he never got any money back and put the Ooberstick in the bin.

Mr Oliver, mitigating for Burrows, said many people did not realise, especially in 2016, that using these devices was illegal.

But Judge Maureen Bacon told Burrows in court on Friday that it was not a “victimless” crime and warned of the loss to the creative industries of piracy.

And the complex investigation meant it took a long time to get to court.

While Burrows was on bail, he was selected by the Liberal Democrats to stand in a by-election for North Walsham Town Council.

The Lib Dems were unaware of the criminal charges and he won the seat.

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