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cable guy Dodgy-box dealer tunes into God and avoids jail after admitting to cable TV piracy

Gardaí found computers, card readers and cable cards in a locked area of his house


Lee Bergin was given a suspended sentence after his conversion.

Lee Bergin was given a suspended sentence after his conversion.

Lee Bergin was given a suspended sentence after his conversion.

Meet the 'dodgy-box' dealer who swerved jail after switching from the illegal boxes to God TV.

Tech-wiz Lee Bergin, the owner of Wexford-based company Church Media, received a suspended sentence last week, after a court heard how he had welcomed the Garda raid that scuppered his illegal activities.

The 41-year-old, who is legally blind, transmitted codes over the internet from legitimate viewing cards, which would then be used to descramble the broadcast signal of cable TV companies, allowing his customers to watch the service ­without paying for it.

Approached at his Wexford home this week, Bergin told the Sunday World: "I've no comment. I don't want you calling to my house to be honest."


Lee Bergin

Lee Bergin

Lee Bergin


Bergin's past piracy of cable TV stands in stark contrast to his current activities - which have proved a Godsend for practicing Catholics locked down during the pandemic.

According to its website, Church Media helps those confined to their home or living away from home to continue to be part of their community by streaming religious services, including weddings and funerals or community events to PCs, laptops, mobile devices or TV sets anywhere in the world."

He counts among his customers churches in parishes right across the country.

But it was his work of a less godly ­nature that saw him called before the criminal courts last week where he pleaded guilty to dishonestly operating a computer on August 5, 2015.

The court heard he had no previous convictions and Detective Garda Gary Lynch said that, following a complaint from a cable company in 2014, gardaí identified Bergin's then address in Stoneybatter, Dublin city, as a place of interest and searched it.

He said Bergin had indicated there was a particular area of the house that was locked and told gardaí where the key was.

Gardaí found computers, card readers and cable viewing cards there.

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The court heard that the legitimate cards from cable companies were plugged into a computer which read the code used to decrypt the signal of the broadcast company.

These codes would be transmitted over the internet to customers who would use them to descramble the signal and watch the cable service without paying for it.

Gardaí also found a number of set-top boxes. The detective was not in a position to say how many people had used the service.

He agreed that it was a complex probe and Bergin's plea was of significant assistance. Bergin had made it clear his wife had nothing to do with the operation.

The detective also agreed that the card readers can be bought legitimately, and it is the use to which they are put that results in the charge in this case.

Defence counsel said his client works to bring broadband to rural areas where it might not otherwise be available. He had also set up a streaming service allowing people to attend religious services from the comfort of home.

Counsel said the offending started out of "curiosity" and as an "intellectual challenge" before going on to be something more serious. He said his client was diagnosed with a relatively rare eye condition aged 10 and is legally blind.

Judge Elma Sheahan said Bergin misapplied his gifts in "a studied way".

She said the offending was "sophisticated", involving a gain to him and a loss to a genuine broadcasting company.

But she accepted that Bergin's remorse and shame is genuine and that he is on the road to rehabilitation, so it is in ­society's best interest to allow him to continue on that road.

She sentenced him to two and a half years but suspended it on strict rules.

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