£170,000 a year pirate DVD business was run from luxury Shepley home

THEY were the hit TV shows from three decades.

DVD

THEY were the hit TV shows from three decades.

And for a Shepley couple, they provided a very lucrative business from their dining room.

Mark Small and his girlfriend Sian Lewis became DVD pirates – illegally copying BBC programmes from the 60s, 70s and 80s and selling them over the internet.

Shows like Just Good Friends, Top of The Pops and Ellery Queen proved very popular.

But now the £170,000 a year industry run from the couple’s luxury £500,000 detached home is at an end.

Small is behind bars – jailed for nine months by a judge at Bradford Crown Court.

And Lewis has been given a community service order.

Business consultant Small, 47, set up a profitable counterfeit DVD operation supplying old BBC programmes for nostalgic viewers.

Over more than a year, Small estimated that he had made a profit of about £80,000, but his internet enterprise came to an end after a raid on his Shepley home in November 2010.

The court heard yesterday how Small got into the DVD business after other sources of income failed.

Judge Peter Benson said the fraudulent activity had funded, to an extent, a champagne lifestyle adding: “You certainly lived in very comfortable surroundings on the proceeds of an illegal plan that was carried out for the best part of a year and netted a considerable amount of money”.

During the raid more than 8,800 counterfeit DVDs were seized as well four lap-top computers and two hard-drives.

Prosecutor David Garnett directed Judge Benson to an album of photographs taken by investigators which showed effectively a “'home industry” with a dining table set up for the packaging and posting of orders received over the internet.

Small, and his 21-year-old partner Sian Lewis, of The Knowle, pleaded guilty to one charge of possessing a Top of the Pops DVD bearing a false trademark with a view to gain and eight further allegations relating to the possession of counterfeit DVDs and computer equipment for use in fraud.

Small’s lawyer Mark Brookes conceded that his client was the prime mover behind the offending, but he stressed that the DVDs being supplied were not commercially available from the BBC or other retailers.

Mr Brookes accepted that Small had been infringing the BBC’s copyright, but he said the DVDs were being sold to people who wanted to revisit those programmes they had seen in their childhood.

The court heard that neither Small or Lewis had any previous convictions and Judge Benson was handed a series of glowing testimonials from family and friends.

Judge Benson told Small he had been selling the illegal copies on a grand scale via the internet with the assistance of Lewis.

The judge said he was sentencing Small as the prime mover and there was no alternative to an immediate prison term.

Judge Benson said the message had to go out to other people who were tempted to make large amounts of money by illegally producing DVDs.

Lewis, who hugged her partner as he was told he would be sent to prison, was given a community sentence with a requirement to do 140 hours unpaid work.

Pc John Barrett of the Kirklees Proceeds of Crime Act team said: “The sentences handed to Small and Lewis today should serve as a warning to those who think they can make money from crime and get away with it.

“This couple were found to have profited from the sale of thousands of counterfeit DVDs, making over £170,000 over a 12-month period and in some cases taking orders of over £1,000 a day.

“By putting a stop to Small and Lewis’s criminal enterprise, the police and our partners in Trading Standards have demonstrated that we will investigate people who we suspect are living beyond their legitimate means and will look to put them before the courts.

“We will now be looking at any further action we may be able to take with regard to any property and possessions that the couple have bought through the profits of their crime.

“We would ask anyone who knows of similar crimes being committed by people in their community to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111”.

Graham Hebblethwaite, chief trading standards officer for West Yorkshire, added: “This case demonstrates the commitment of both the police and trading standards within West Yorkshire to stamp out DVD piracy.

“This investigation targeted a sophisticated international operation who effectively ripped off copyright holders content, for their own financial gain. This is not a victimless crime as piracyŠ is unfair competition against the legitimate supply chain and effectively cost jobs in the creative industries and the retail sector”.

 

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