Three men who took part in a massive fraud by selling set-top boxes which allowed people unlawful free access to Virgin Media's cable television channels have been jailed for a total of 15 years.
The men manufactured, imported and supplied more than 400,000 set-top boxes across the UK during a three-and-a-half year operation, a jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court was told.
The scam, described as the largest commercial fraud to have been prosecuted in the UK, is thought to have cost Virgin Media some £144 million a year.
The set-top boxes were sold between January 2005 and November 2008 to suppliers and dealers across the UK and Northern Ireland.
Although it was unlawful to use the boxes, consumers were tricked into spending hundreds of pounds on the devices because they gave access to Virgin Media's cable television services without subscription.
A Virgin Media spokesman said the company's counter-measures regularly disabled unofficial boxes while the roll-out of new encryption technology across the cable network meant that all such set-top boxes were now useless.
Virgin Media launched a private prosecution following a large-scale joint operation with the Metropolitan Police at Redbridge, Essex, and New Scotland Yard.
Munaf Ahmed Zinga, 40, from Plaistow, Essex, who traded the Eurovox-branded set-top boxes through his business Rayyonics Ltd, got an eight-year sentence. His assistant, Mukandun Pillai, 39, from Hainault, was jailed for six years. The jury convicted them of conspiracy to defraud.
The third man, Salim Patel, from Plaistow, was jailed for 12 months. He had earlier pleaded guilty to his part in the conspiracy by working as a delivery driver for the company, transporting the set-top boxes to suppliers and collecting cash in return.
Judge Inigo Bing said when he sentenced the men last week: "As the full programme of TV services can be expensive, the defendant's product had great appeal to those members of the public who had less than exemplary scruples. The potential market for free TV was enormous."