A legally blind man who operated a business providing customers with illegal access to cable TV has been given a suspended sentence.
Lee Bergin (41) transmitted codes over the internet from legitimate viewing cards that would then be used to descramble the cable companies’ broadcast signal, allowing his customers to watch the service without paying.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that the defendant told Gardaí he was happy to have been arrested as he wanted to focus on his legitimate business.
Bergin with a previous address in Olaf Street, Stoneybatter, Dublin, and now residing in County Wexford, pleaded guilty to dishonestly using a computer in the state on August 5, 2015. He has no previous convictions.
Detective Garda Gary Lynch told Prosecutor Diarmuid Collins BL that following a complaint from a cable company in 2014, Gardaí identified Bergin’s address in Stoneybatter as a place of interest and l ‘had searched on the date in question.
Detective Gda Lynch said that on the phone with Bergin on that date, the accused indicated that there was a particular area of the house that was locked and told Gardaí where the key was. Gardaí found a number of computers, card readers and cable viewing cards in this area.
The court heard that the cable companies’ legitimate cards were plugged into a computer that read the code used to decipher the broadcast company’s signal.
These codes would then be transmitted over the Internet to customers who would use them to descramble the signal and watch cable service without paying for it.
Gardaí also found a number of set-top boxes that matched boxes that cable companies acquired during test purchases when they tried to identify the source of the illegal activity.
The detective said he was unable to say how many people took advantage of the service provided by the accused.
Detective Gda Lynch agreed with David Sweetman BL, defending, that this was a fairly complex investigation and that his client’s plea was of great help. He agreed that Bergin made it clear that his wife had nothing to do with this operation.
The detective agreed with counsel that the card readers can be purchased legitimately and that it is the use to which they are put that gives rise to the charge in this case.
Mr Sweetman said his client is working to bring broadband to rural areas where broadband might not be available otherwise. He said his client has set up a streaming service that allows people to attend church services from the comfort of their own homes.
The lawyer said the offense started out of “curiosity” and as an “intellectual challenge” before turning into something much more serious. He said his client was diagnosed with a relatively rare eye disease at the age of 10 and was legally blind.
Judge Elma Sheahan said it had to be recognized that Bergin had misused his donations in “a studied way.”
Judge Sheahan said the offense was “sophisticated”, involving a gain for him and a loss for a bona fide broadcasting company. She said she accepts that her remorse and shame are genuine.
She said the court is of the view that the accused is on the path to rehabilitation and that it is in the best interests of society to allow him to continue on that path.
Judge Sheahan sentenced Bergin to two and a half years in prison, but suspended the sentence in its entirety under strict conditions.