£2M Sky Scheme: IPTV Boss Jailed After Global Manhunt

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After a long international manhunt, Michael Hornung, a 40-year-old from Hyde, Greater Manchester, has been brought to justice for masterminding a massive illegal IPTV operation that cost broadcasters millions in lost revenue.

Operating under the alias ‘NoHatsNoTrainers’ on the online platform CS World, Hornung sold specially configured set-top boxes that allowed unlawful access to subscription services.

Among the services he was offering access to were Sky, BT Sport (now known as TNT Sports), and Virgin Media TV, as well as thousands of on-demand films and pay-per-view content.

His scheme, which ran from 2014 to 2017, resulted in a staggering £2 million in potential losses for broadcasters and rights holders, while lining his own pockets with an estimated £350,000 in fraudulent income.

IPTV on a laptop

IPTV, or Internet Protocol Television, is a technology that streams television content over the Internet instead of through traditional broadcasting methods like cable or satellite.

While IPTV itself is not illegal, and many legitimate services such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer use this technology, problems arise when individuals or organizations use IPTV to distribute copyrighted content without permission.

Therefore, IPTV has become somewhat synonymous with illegal services that offer premium channels, sports and films for a low cost – without paying the legitimate right holders. 

The International Manhunt and Extradition

FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft) began investigating Hornung way back in April 2014 after intelligence revealed he was supplying set-top boxes that enabled unauthorized access to subscription television content.

Watching movies online illegal pirating

In an undercover operation, investigators made a test purchase from Hornung’s online store in June 2014.

When they received the device, they discovered that it provided access to a vast array of premium content, including hundreds of channels from Virgin Media’s TV subscription service.

Among these were the highly sought-after Sky Sports and Sky Movies packages.

With assistance from Greater Manchester Police, FACT identified Hornung as the operator behind ‘NoHatsNoTrainers.’

In June 2022, Hornung was sentenced for his role in the illegal IPTV operation. But the verdict was handed down in his absence, and he was found guilty of all charges.

Fearing imprisonment, he fled the UK, seeking refuge in Northern Cyprus.

However, his freedom was short-lived, as the efforts of FACT and the National Crime Agency (NCA) brought about his successful extradition from Cyprus.

Computer hacker being arrested

On June 2, 2024, Hornung was arrested by Cypriot authorities in Cyprus. The NCA facilitated arrangements for his extradition, and after an in-country extradition hearing, Hornung consented to return to the UK.

Appearing before Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court, Hornung was sentenced to four years and six months in prison for his role in the illegal IPTV scheme.

Additionally, Hornung received a 12-week jail sentence for violating the Bail Act, bringing his total sentence to four years and nine months.

The court also ordered him to pay £258,642 under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, with an additional three years of imprisonment if he fails to comply within three months.

Copyright law book with court gavel

Tom Dowdall, Deputy Director International from the NCA, emphasized that no one is beyond the reach of the law.

“Hornung thought fleeing overseas would mean he would never have to face his crimes.

“However, the NCA’s international network regularly shares intelligence and works closely with overseas partners to apprehend those on the run.”

The UK Fight Against IPTV

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

The £500K Firestick Fraud

In a recent case, a Liverpool man named Kevin James O’Donnell was sentenced to a two-year suspended sentence for selling modified Amazon Fire TV Sticks that provided unauthorized access to premium content from services like Sky and TNT Sports.

Amazon Fire TV Max 2nd in hand

O’Donnell’s operation involved selling these “fully loaded” Firesticks with illegal IPTV apps pre-installed. The scheme generated over £130,000 in revenue and defrauded content owners of more than £500,000. 

The £237K BT Sport Streaming Empire

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

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

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.

How to Identify Illegal IPTV Services in the UK

While low-cost IPTV services are illegal, some subscribers are not even aware that they’re dealing with an illicit operation.

Illegal IPTV services often advertise themselves as cheap alternatives to legitimate providers, offering access to premium content at suspiciously low prices.

Here are some red flags to watch out for:

1. Too good to-be-true pricing: If a service offers a wide range of channels, including premium sports movies, at a fraction of the cost of legitimate providers, it’s likely operating illegally.

2. Too many channels and services: There’s a lot of competition in the streaming and TV world these days. If you see a service that offers multiple streaming services under one roof – that’s a red flag.

Man streaming video on a laptop
Moving to streaming

3. Lack of proper customer support: Illegal IPTV services typically lack proper customer support channels, such as telephone numbers or official email addresses.

4. Unconventional payment methods: If a service only accepts unconventional payment methods, such as cryptocurrency or unrecognized online payment systems, it may be operating illegally.

6. Modified hardware: Set-top boxes or streaming devices that come pre-loaded with suspect IPTV apps, often advertised as “fully loaded” or “jailbroken,” are likely configured for illegal streaming.

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3 thoughts on “£2M Sky Scheme: IPTV Boss Jailed After Global Manhunt”

  1. The £2 million is assuming that all those using the pirate IPTV service, would have subscribed to Sky, I for one doubt this very much, quite probably highish figure, but nothing like £2 million, as most have more important things to spend their money on and it isn’t Sky.

  2. If Sky, TNT and others reduced their prices then there wouldn’t be a demand for IPTV. The proof is in the pudding. With so many people subscribing to IPTV there is obviously a lot of money to be made. It’s patently obvious that by making the streaming services as cheap as chips these companies would simply fold. Or are Sky etc just plain greedy? We have Freesat which is a mix of good and bad programmes, and subscribe to Netflix. I have seen some films on IPTV and they are very poor quality. Acting, script etc. Most of the other channels are not worth watching. TV today is aiming at the lowest common denominator. You cannot compare UK news channels to CNN. It is in a different class. The reporters speak clearly. Know their facts and make watching the news interesting.

    • You are so right Tony.
      What we need in the UK is all of us who pay for sports channels be they TNT sports or Sky sports or even both to stop taking out those sports channels & that hopefully would be a shock to their system or bank account.
      However as usual in the UK there are always those that say ” You can’t tell me what to do ” .
      It’s why UK customers for any products are ripped off.


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