Fraudster’s fake TV cards cheated firm out of £1.25m

SENTENCED: Michael Osborne leaves court.
SENTENCED: Michael Osborne leaves court.

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A FATHER who supplied a thousand people with illegal Virgin cable television is thought to have cheated the company out of £1.25m.

Michael Osborne ran his operation, which supplied people with equipment to get free Virgin Media channels, from his bedroom.

For years he sold fraudulent smart cards that allowed people to watch all the firm’s premium channels without paying monthly subscription fees of up to £104, Portsmouth Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Martyn Booth said Osborne had sold 1,000 smart cards over four years after finding out about them on the internet.

Osborne, who has a six-year-old son, was arrested during a raid on his home in Lantana Close, Waterlooville, in March last year when police found 41 of the smart cards.

Mr Booth said that while it was difficult to put a precise figure on the loss to the company it was estimated to be £1.25m. He said Osborne had made about £50,000 from selling the cards.

The court heard the 49-year-old has a long list of previous convictions. He pleaded guilty to possessing articles for use in fraud, making or supplying articles for use in fraud and obtaining services by deception. Judge Roger Hetherington said: ‘This required a degree of sophistication, although I accept it was something you ran from your own bedroom.

‘It was carried out over a period of four years. You involved others. You got into this in the first place by discussions on the internet.

‘Over the four years, although it’s impossible to say how many cards you sold, I do not doubt that you derived some financial benefit from it yourself. Virgin Media would have lost a considerable amount through you and others who availed themselves of your hacking equipment.’

The judge said Osborne had previously been declared bankrupt and owed £52,000 in credit card debts.

Osborne was given a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years. He will have 18 months of supervision from the probation service and must attend a thinking skills course. There will be a court hearing in May to decide how much money he has to repay.

Malcolm Davies, Virgin Media’s head of fraud and security said: ‘This should act as a serious warning to others to steer clear of this type of crime. We take this matter extremely seriously and will continue to work closely with the police forces to prosecute individuals connected with this type of TV fraud.’