The St. Albans Crown Court has found Thomas Tewelde and Mohamed Abdou guilty of offenses relevant to the Serious Crime Act 2007 and Fraud Act 2006, sentencing them to one year in prison. In addition to this, they will both be required to complete 120 hours of unpaid work, as well as to pay £1,000 to cover judiciary costs. The reason for this condemnation is that the two men were selling pre-configured Kodi boxes that were suitable for pirating activities, carrying the “BlackBox.tv” branding.
According to the details in the indictment, these boxes enabled their users to search on multiple online pirate sources for illegal content and access it without having to pay anything. The sellers had pre-loaded the Kodi media player and add plugins that fetch content from pirate online streaming platforms. While neither Kodi nor the TV boxes themselves are illegal, it is the pre-configuration that enabled the users to engage in piracy that brought the two men in front of justice. Another convicting factor was that the two were providing detailed instructions to the aspiring buyers on how to use them to access infringing content.
This “black market” operation was going well for Tewelde and Abdou, until officers from Hertfordshire Trading Standards bought set-top devices from them in July 2017, and during a covert operation. Not only were the boxes pre-configured for piracy, but they also lacked all of the mandatory electrical safety standard certifications that must accompany the electronic devices that are sold in the UK. This means that their users were running the risk of fire or electrocution, which is something that the UK authorities have warned the public about many times in the past.
Great result at St Albans Crown Court today for our @HCC_TS team. Both defendants sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 2 years, with 120 hours unpaid work and costs awarded. Thanks @5PaperBuildings and @factuk for support. https://t.co/GzEakrZey3
— Andrew Butler (@AndrewButlerHCC) February 28, 2020
Now, the sentences may seem rough at first, but considering the offenses and the judiciary precedent, they are quite lenient. Still, the prosecution expressed its satisfaction and took the chance to send a message to both TV box sellers and their buyers. As Kieron Sharp, the Chief Executive of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) stated: “This sentence shows that if you are involved in the sale of illicit devices you can receive a criminal conviction for fraud that will have a detrimental effect on your life. We urge consumers to remain mindful of counterfeits and illicit goods being sold at markets as many illicit streaming devices have failed to meet UK safety standards, potentially risking the lives of loved ones if installed in the home.”