Page last updated at 15:52 GMT, Friday, 11 April 2008 16:52 UK

Magician's free TV football scam

Mark Elsdon
Mark Elsdon made around 5,000 selling the illegal cards

A magician, who sold foreign satellite TV cards to pubs to show football matches, has been given a 10 month suspended jail sentence.

Mark Elsdon, 39, from Llandudno, Conwy, admitted eight offences of supplying or offering the cards to 16 premises.

He sold decoder cards to watch Premier League football for as little as a pub's monthly subscription to BSkyB.

Caernarfon Crown Court heard he made 5,000 selling the cards which were only licensed for use in north Africa.

But when the supply of those cards dried up, Elsdon returned to pubs in Conwy, Anglesey, Gwynedd and Denbighshire, offering to supply new cards from Greece.

Elsdon was offering his cards for as little as 700, while the legitimate satellite programmes from BSkyB could cost a pub that in a single month.

Prosecutor Miles Bennett told the court that Elsdon was well aware that his actions were illegal, and that trading standards officers had seized a file of documents at his home with titles such as: "Using foreign satellites is illegal".

The only reason for him to get involved in this was greed and making money
Miles Bennett

However, said the prosecutor: "Mr Elsdon would come in with a package claiming everything was legitimate and legal.

"The only reason for him to get involved in this was greed and making money."

At a previous hearing, it had been claimed that Elsdon believed the cards were legal to sell in the UK, and had been advised by a group known as the European Satellite Television Association (Esta).

Speaking at the sentencing hearing on Friday, Mr Bennett described Esta as part of the problem, telling the court that they encouraged people to believe the cards were legitimate.

"They put out a disinformation campaign," said the barrister.

"They were keen, as I understand it, for Mr Elsdon to fight this case."


However, Elsdon's defence told the court that he did not want to become a "martyr" for Esta.

"He does not claim to be an expert on intellectual property rights or claim to be intellectual," said defence barrister Owen Edwards.

"It was an expensive pastime encouraged by Esta. Their aim is to gain sympathy because the cost of showing sport broadcasts in public houses is expensive, and the problem is the cost has increased exponentially.

"This is a campaign that Esta wage. This defendant does not want to be a martyr to this campaign."

Sentencing Elsdon, Judge Merfyn Hughes told him he had been motivated by greed.

In addition to the 10 month suspended jail sentence, Elsdon was also ordered to carry out 150 hours unpaid work, and pay costs of 6,000.

All decoder cards seized in the case, brought by Conwy Trading Standards, were also ordered to be destroyed.

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