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Gang sentenced to 11 years for Expendables 3 torrent offences after Sylvester Stallone thanks police

  • Four men sentenced after setting up an illegal torrent website for high profile films, costing the industry in excess of £8,480,000.
  • The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) found that the men had worked together in an organised group.
  • Convicted illegal uploader said “I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about” on arrest, having deleted evidence moments before.

Yesterday (Monday 18 March 2019) four men were sentenced at Manchester Crown Court to a total of 11 and a half years for setting up an illegal torrent website offering high profile films.

  • Steven Pegram, 40, of Thornham Close, Wirral was sentenced to four and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud on 3 December 2018.
  • Mark Rollin, 36, of Bradford Road, Dewsbury was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud on 23 May 2018.
  • Paul Taylor, 53, of Daresbury Close, Stockport was sentenced to two years in prison suspended for 24 months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud on 3 December 2018.
  • Alan Stephenson, 41, of Atkinson Road, Dumfries was sentenced to two years in prison suspended for 24 months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud on 26 April 2018.

On 16 September 2014, the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) was referred information about illegal pirating of Lionsgate Films. 

An investigation by PIPCU found that the men had worked together in an organised group called MiLLENiUM Release Group to obtain illegal copies of high profile films. They then uploaded the films to a purpose-built torrent website for thousands of users.

Following coverage of PIPCU's investigation in April 2015, actor Sylvester Stallone said: “I’d like to thank the PIPCU at the City of London Police for working with US Homeland Security Investigations to apprehend the suspect in this case.

“It is important to protect the rights of creative around the world from theft.”

The offences came to the attention of Lionsgate Films in July 2014 when The Expendables 3 was leaked onto the internet prior to its official US release date. US Law Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) completed an investigation into the release of the film.

On 25 November 2014, PIPCU and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officers arrested Pegram and Rollin on suspicion of being involved in a conspiracy to defraud Lionsgate Films. Searches were carried out at each of their houses which led to officers seizing phones, laptops, hard drives and storage devices.

Following forensic analysis of the seized laptops and hard drives, officers discovered that Pegram attempted to cover his tracks by taking the website offline and deleted evidence just moments before his arrest.  He also messaged the other members of the website stating “remove site and shut down police at my door”.

The website was paid for by Taylor who is believed to have deleted the site on 27 November 2014, just two days after Pegram’s arrest. However, between January 2014 and December 2014, Pegram paid £1,395 to the website’s server companies showing he was maintaining servers for the site.

Rollin, one of the main encoders for the site, actively uploaded 240 films to the site.  His main computer had in excess of 47 high quality newly realised digital films along with hundreds of partial films.

An investigator for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) uncovered evidence on Pegram’s computer of a backup of the website and an automated software program which uploaded torrent films to the site. This program was responsible for uploading 7,279 torrents to the site.

A fourth individual Stephenson was identified as a coder for the site and its first user. His account was created on 8 June 2013.

Stephenson was subsequently interviewed under caution at Carlisle Police Station on 15 December 2016 where he admitted to being involved in the site. He explained that Pegram and Taylor had asked him to assist them in setting up the site as they did not have the specialist knowledge to do so themselves. Stephenson confirmed that Pegram and Taylor were the sites owners. He also admitted to receiving two payments totalling £298, one from Pegram and one from Taylor.

The estimated financial loss to the movie industry from the group’s illegal activities is believed to be in excess of £8,480,000.

Detective Constable Mark Baker of the City of London Police’s Fraud Squad said:
“This was an incredibly organised group who purposefully set out to defraud film companies. Piracy is never a victimless crime. Film companies invest considerable sums of money to produce high quality motion picture films.  Creative Companies rely on this revenue stream to fund jobs within the industry. This type of crime threatens the future of both.”

Prosecution Counsel, Ben Douglas-Jones QC said: 
"MiLLENiUM Release Group was a group of like-minded individuals whose ideology was that people who could not afford to go to the cinema or to pay for the download of films of DVDs could have access to them.  They used the website to release the films to the public.”

HH Jonathon Foster QC made the following comments on sentencing:
Offences like this require deterrent sentencing which was necessary because illegal downloading is difficult to investigate and detect. It can give serious problems and losses to the entertainment industry.  With over six million confirmed downloads and total confirmed loss of £8.5 million to the film industry, the loss was very, very real.”

Homeland Security Investigations London Attaché James Mancuso said:
“This investigation highlights the outstanding cooperation between the City of London Police and Homeland Security Investigations. Forging strong international law enforcement partnerships are critical to protecting UK and US intellectual property rights and holding criminals accountable for their actions.”   

Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin said:
“The MPAA has long had a strong and collaborative relationship with The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), and we applaud their outstanding work in shutting down these extensive piracy operations. Online theft undermines the vibrant creative economy in the U.K. and around the world, and threatens the millions of jobs supported by the film and television industry. Lending the assistance of MPAA content protection investigators to PIPCU and other global law enforcement organizations helps protect creativity and reduce the ever-evolving threat of piracy.”

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