A legally blind man who operated a business offering customers illegal access to cable TV has been given a suspended sentence.
Lee Bergin (41) transmitted codes over the Internet from legitimate viewing cards which would then be used to decrypt the cable companies’ broadcast signal, allowing his customers to watch the service without paying.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard the defendant told Gardaí he was happy to be arrested as he wanted to focus on his legitimate business.
Bergin with a previous address at Olaf Street, Stoneybatter, Dublin, and now residing in Co Wexford, pleaded guilty to dishonestly using a computer in the state on August 5, 2015. He has no previous convictions.
Garda Detective Gary Lynch told Diarmuid Collins BL, prosecuting, that following a complaint from a cable company in 2014, gardaí identified Bergin’s Stoneybatter address as a place of interest and the 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 decrypt the broadcast company’s signal.
These codes would then be transmitted over the Internet to customers who would use them to decrypt the signal and watch cable service without paying for it.
Source of illegal activity
Gardaí also found a number of set-top boxes compatible with set-top boxes that cable companies had acquired during test purchases when trying 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 the defense attorney that this was quite a complex investigation and that his client’s plea was of great help. He agreed that Bergin had made it clear his wife had nothing to do with the operation.
The detective agreed with the attorney that card readers can be purchased legally and it is the use to which they are put that drives the charge in this case.
The defense attorney said his client is working to bring broadband to rural areas where broadband might otherwise not be available. He said his client has set up a streaming service that allows people to attend religious services from the comfort of their homes.
Out of curiosity’
The lawyer said the offense started out of “curiosity” and as an “intellectual challenge” before becoming something much more serious. He said his client was diagnosed with a relatively rare eye disease when he was 10 years old and was legally blind.
Judge Elma Sheahan said it must be acknowledged that Bergin had misapplied his gifts “in a studied way”.
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Judge Sheahan said the breach was “sophisticated”, involving a gain for him and a loss for a genuine broadcasting company. She said she accepted that her remorse and shame were genuine.
She said the court is of the view that the defendant is on the path to rehabilitation and that it is in society’s interest 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 on strict terms.
*The article was modified on July 29, 2021