A RADCLIFFE man who caused losses of £1million to Sky TV by selling bogus streaming devices has dodged jail.

Mark Schofield, of Seddon Lane, confessed to selling a thousand illegal streaming devices (ISDs) to buyers across the north west.

It is estimated Schofield made around £100,000 from the racket, which saw him adapt simple ‘Raspberry Pi’ units to access Sky subscription channels and film content.

Schofield was caught after undercover investigators used his Facebook trading accounts, which advertised the sale of the units, with the 50-year-old boasting how they could access Sky’s content for free and using Sky’s logo on his site.

Ari Alibhai, prosecuting, said Schofield sold the boxes for between £80-£100.

In April 2013 an undercover operative made a test purchase during which he attended his home address before being granted access to a Facebook group

On the site Schofield offered advice on how to operate the hardware, avoid detection by Sky and provided guidance on how to access more content.

At one point Facebook disabled Schofield’s account due to copyright infringement, forcing him to change his identity.

An online investigation by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) led to the force executing a search warrant at his home address in February 2017, where items of hardware were recovered but no trading records, cash or receipts were found.

Schofield, who pleaded guilty to offences of copyright infringement and fraud, was also found to be selling cards which could update the units for around £10 each.

“To borrow an analogy from football, this was a mid-table level of sophistication,” said Mr Alibhai.

“The manner in which he traded on Facebook was designed to avoid detection and we have a turnover agreed at £100,000.”

He added that the potential loss to Sky was “well in excess of £1m”.

Patrick Buckley, defending, said Schofield had shown a “degree of naivety and a lack of understanding of the scope and scale of what was happening.”

“It was a cottage industry, he made money out of it and it certainly was not unsophisticated,” said Mr Buckley.

Mr Buckley added that during that time Schofield had been a “model citizen” and the consequences of a custodial sentence would be “catastrophic” to his family because he had two adult children who lived at home following the sudden death of his wife in April 2018.

Handing Schofield a two year sentence suspended for two years, Judge Graeme Smith, said: “This is clearly a case where the potential losses to Sky were huge.”

Schofield will also have to complete 240 hours of unpaid work with a proceeds of crime hearing set to take place on October 30.

Commenting after the hearing, FACT Chief Executive Kieron Sharp said: “This result shows the serious consequences individuals can face if they choose to break the law by providing illegal devices and services.

“This is a warning to anyone engaged in selling subscriptions or devices that allow access to content without remunerating the legitimate provider – it’s not a grey area and you risk a criminal conviction.

“FACT works closely with broadcasters and rights owners who employ a variety of techniques to identify the original source of illegal content.

"With the support from law enforcement, government and the creative industries we are tightening the net on the criminals behind illegal activity. If you come across any content that doesn’t look legitimate, FACT works with Crimestoppers to make it easy for you to report it. Contact Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555 111 or filling out their online form at https://crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information.”