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Underground online pirates sentenced to 17 years

News / December 18

Five members of an underground piracy group who illegally released the latest blockbusters onto the web have been jailed for more than 17 years.

Five members of an underground piracy group who illegally released the latest blockbusters onto the web have been jailed for more than 17 years.

Officers from West Midlands Police Economic Crime Unit and the West Midlands Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN) supported a landmark investigation which was led by the Federation Against Copyright Theft ( FACT )

The case marks the first time that organised ’release groups’ have been prosecuted.

The five men sought on-line recognition for being the first to illegally source and release the latest films or for producing the ‘best’ illegal quality copies. 

Over a number of years the groups illegally released more than 2,500 films. On just one of their sharing websites there had been millions of downloads costing the industry millions of pounds. 
During the sentencing hearing all five men accepted that they had caused total losses in excess of £5 million, each accepting a loss of more than £1 million.

Sahil Rafiq, Reece Baker, Graeme Reid, Ben Cooper and Scott Hemming, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud on 28th January 2015 and were sentenced to imprisonment at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Thursday 17th December. The sentences are detailed below:

• Rafiq, 25 from Wolverhampton received 4 years and 6 months.
• Baker, 23 from Birmingham received 4 years and 2 months.
• Reid, 41 from Chesterfield received 3 years and 6 months.
• Cooper, 34 from Wolverhampton received 3 years and 6 months.
• Hemming, 27 from Birmingham received 2 years suspended sentence.

The five men were arrested at their homes on 1 February 2013 following an investigation by FACT with support from West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit (WM ROCU) and officers from Derbyshire, Hertfordshire and GAIN. 

Kieron Sharp, Director General of the Federation Against Copyright Theft, said: “This sentencing is a great success for FACT as it marks the first time a release group has been criminally prosecuted. Rafiq, Baker, Reid, Cooper and Hemming were all aware that they were engaging in criminal activity. Their actions have now cost them their liberty.

“The result of this case sends out a serious message to anyone engaging in online piracy to think twice or face getting caught, prosecuted and sent to prison.”

Regional GAIN Co-ordinator Jason Grove, from West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit commented: “This highlights how seriously we are taking this sort of criminal activity and just how closely police are working with partner agencies such as FACT to tackle organised crime.” 

“The multi-agency approach adopted by WM ROCU and the GAIN Network shows just how effective we can be when sharing our information and working together.” 

©WMROCU 2014