A pursuit of Internet-using pirate hardware vendors has led
to the arrest of three New York residents whom authorities have identified as affiliates
of the "Russian mafia."
Using information developed by Suburban Cable in
Wilmington, Del., local police arrested the trio as they tried to sell doctored set-tops
to cable officials.
Todd Eachus, director of government relations for the cable
operator, said investigators located the suspects and their business, Alco Electronics,
via the Internet. Suburban took an interest in these pirates because one of the contact
numbers listed in their ad used a Wilmington area code.
Investigators called the number and bought a decoding
device for $125. Surveillance determined that the local number was for a storage facility
only, so the trail was followed to the firm's mail drop in New York.
Suburban investigators contacted the principals and posed
as potential distributors. The suspects agreed to sell the "distributors"
$16,000 worth of "cubes" which, when used in conjunction with an addressable
analog box, "open" all premium and pay-per-view channels.
At the time of the arrest, authorities seized 300 cubes
along with a dozen Federal Express packages destined for buyers throughout the U.S. The
suspects also consented to a search of the storage facility where 200 more units were
Eachus said it is unclear at this time whether the suspects
manufactured the piracy devices in the U.S. or imported them.
Each suspect was charged with 102 counts of distribution of
illegal telecommunications devices and second-degree conspiracy.