Derry man gets four-year sentence for internet piracy

Paul Mahoney
Paul Mahoney

A social recluse whose bedroom-run internet piracy scam put the movie industry at risk of losing an estimated £120 million has been handed a four-year sentence, half of which will be spent in prison.

Paul Mahoney, 29, from Londonderry, made almost £300,000 through advertising revenue generated from his illegal websites offering access to the latest films and TV shows - many before general release.

During the six-year period he operated the racket, the partially blind loner claimed around £12,000 in state benefits.

Some £82,400 in cash was found hidden in the home where he lived with his parents when police searched the property in the Carnhill area of Derry.

Mahoney was sentenced at the city's Crown Court having pleaded guilty earlier this year to a series of offences, including conspiracy to defraud the film industry.

The investigation against Mahoney was led by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) in conjunction with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

At the pre-sentence hearing in Derry's crown court before judge Philip Babington, prosecutor David Groome QC said the money involved in Mahoney's "sophisticated fraud" was "quite staggering".

He highlighted forensic examination of the defendant's computers and internet history that showed in one six-month period illegal movie copies accessed through his website were viewed 1.1 million times.

Extrapolating that out, Mr Groome said: "During the six-year life of defendant's business that equates to something like movies being viewed on 12 million occasions. If you consider it is about £10 to go to the cinema or about £10 to buy a brand new DVD upon its release, it means the defendant's websites enabled users of it to view about £120 million worth of property."

The court heard that Mahoney first started his business in 2007, and over the next six years he changed his website name three further times in a bid to evade detection.

During this period, Mahoney was served with a cease and desist notice by Fact and was arrested twice by the PSNI. Despite these interventions, he continued to run the fraud, the court heard.