Firestick Fraud: Man Busted For £500K IPTV Scheme

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Kevin James O’Donnell, a 41-year-old resident of Liverpool, has been handed a two-year suspended sentence for promoting and selling illegally modified Amazon Fire TV Sticks.

These devices were configured to provide unauthorised, low-cost access to premium films, TV shows, and live sports content, from providers like Sky and TNT Sports.

In these types of cases, the illegal platforms either sell “jailbroken” Firesticks with the illegal IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) apps already installed, or provide instructions on how to install those apps on customers’ existing streaming devices (see below on how to identify illegal Fire TV IPTV services).

Fire TV Stick 4K 2nd Gen in hand

The verdict, delivered at Liverpool Crown Court, is the result of a thorough investigation by FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft) and the Merseyside Police Cyber Crime Unit.

The Investigation And Dramatic Takedown

Operating under the alias ‘Kevo James‘ on Facebook, O’Donnell actively promoted an illegal IPTV subscription service to a group of over 3,600 members.

He sold modified Firesticks, pre-configured to access low-cost sports, TV channels, and movie content without the proper rights.

The investigation, initiated by FACT in July 2022, came to a head on July 4, 2023, when Merseyside Police executed a search warrant at O’Donnell’s Liverpool residence.

Hacker arrested computer
Illustrative Photo

Officers then swooped in and arrested O’Donnell, seizing many digital devices, including computers, laptops, mobile phones, and the incriminating modified Firesticks.

The subsequent forensic examination revealed the extent of O’Donnell’s operation.

He had been offering these illegal premium packages at prices ranging from £40 to £85 for a 12-month contract, with transactions facilitated through the secrecy of Facebook direct messaging and WhatsApp.

Delivery options included postal service and even in-person meetups.

Streaming watching movies films on tablet
Photo: Deposit Photos

Estimates suggest that O’Donnell’s illicit operation generated over £130,000 in revenue, defrauding content owners of more than half a million pounds.

At the hearing on May 4, 2024, at Liverpool Crown Court, O’Donnell pleaded guilty to two charges:

1. Providing, promoting, and marketing a service designed to circumvent technological measures (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988)
2. Supplying an article for use in fraud (Fraud Act 2006)

He received a two-year suspended sentence, 25 days of rehabilitation activity, and 150 hours of unpaid work.

Copyright law book with court gavel

Kieron Sharp, CEO of FACT, expressed gratitude for the Merseyside Police Cyber Crime Unit’s diligent work and collaboration. He emphasised the importance of protecting legitimate providers and the impact of coordinated law enforcement efforts in combating digital piracy.

Detective Inspector Steve Frame highlighted the close partnership between the police and FACT in holding O’Donnell accountable. He noted the defendant’s significant financial gains over several years through Facebook and WhatsApp sales.

Frame also underscored that illegal streaming is not a victimless crime. It affects businesses, content creators, and legitimate subscribers who essentially pay for those accessing services illegally.

Moreover, illegal streams increase the risk of users falling victim to malware and Computer Misuse Act offences.

Understanding IPTV And “Sideloaded” Firesticks

IPTV, or Internet Protocol Television, is a technology that streams television content over the internet instead of traditional cable or satellite TV.

IPTV button on keyboard TV

While legal IPTV services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer pay necessary royalties to content providers, many unauthorised services also use this technology to distribute pirated content, including premium TV channels, Premier League events, and more.

Therefore, the term “IPTV” has become somewhat synonymous with low-cost, illegal streaming services/apps.

Jailbreaking or modifying devices like Amazon Fire TV Sticks allows users to install third-party apps that provide free/cheap access to this premium content, without going through the official app store (this is commonly known as “Sideloading”).

Although it’s not illegal to install third-party apps on Firesticks (and there are many legitimate use cases for that), installing apps that offer unauthorised access to copyrighted material is against the law.

Fire TV sticks 2023

O’Donnell’s operation involved selling these “fully loaded” Firesticks (also known as dodgy boxes) with illegal IPTV apps pre-installed.

By doing so, he enabled buyers to stream content without paying the rightful owners, which is a form of piracy.

The Fight Against IPTV Across The UK

The ongoing UK battle against illegal IPTV services has intensified over the years, with law enforcement and industry bodies joining forces to tackle these services.

The £1 Million Firestick Premier League Scheme

One of the most significant cases in recent times involved a Shrewsbury man, Steven Mills, who was also selling Fire TV sticks with illegal IPTV apps.

Illegal IPTV evidence
Confiscated Devices (Photo: Regional Organised Crime Unit)

He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for operating an illegal streaming service that broadcast Premier League matches.

The IPTV Duo

In April 2024, Benjamin Yates and Lewis Finch from Worcester were sentenced for running an illegal IPTV service called “Titan Streams.”

Over three years, they attracted nearly 4,000 subscribers seeking unauthorized access to live sports events from TNT Sports and Sky, generating £320,000 in illicit profits.

The £237K BT Sport Streaming Empire

The £237K BT Sport streaming scheme led by Mark Brockley from Liverpool involved selling subscriptions to his streaming service, “Infinity Streams,” which illegally broadcast BT Sport content.

Football on mobile phone 1200

After making over £237,000 from these sales, Brockley fled to France to avoid prosecution and was sentenced in absentia.

Identifying Illegal IPTV Sites/Apps

Illegal IPTV sites and apps offer streaming services without the proper licensing, often providing access to premium content for free or at a significantly reduced cost.

These platforms can be identified by their offering of content that normally requires a subscription, at no cost or at prices that seem too good to be true.

IPTV on a laptop

They might also lack professional websites or user agreements, and may have poor performance or quality compared to legitimate services.

When purchasing a Firestick, it’s important to buy from reputable retailers to ensure the device has not been altered.

If a Firestick is advertised with pre-installed third-party applications or promises of free access to premium content, it’s likely jailbroken.

It’s also advisable to avoid IPTV sites and apps that offer unauthorised access to premium content. Stick to well-known and reputable streaming services to ensure a safe and legal viewing experience.

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2 thoughts on “Firestick Fraud: Man Busted For £500K IPTV Scheme”

  1. The images used in this article for (as you put it) “illustrative purposes” are hilarious! You’ve got some guy dressed in black who is supposed to represent a British police officer pointing a gun at someone! It looks more like an armed robbery. I am sure you could’ve found something more appropriate, even if you do feel Merseyside is a bit rough.

  2. Dumb to think he’d get away with that for too long.

    And who buys these things anyway? I assumed everyone uses torrents these days – fast connection speeds, improvements in the bittorrent protocol, and knowledge of ‘the usual places’ to obtain the torrents has made it trivial for those who wish to obtain content. Why pay a subscription, especially for something dodgy like this.


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