Dodgy stick-dealing dad who bragged 'don't go with amateurs' on Facebook learns fate at court

Kevin O'Donnell
-Credit: (Image: LiverpoolEcho)

A dad funded his gambling addiction by selling dodgy firesticks online which made him a small fortune. Between September 2020 and March 2023, Kevin O'Donnell sold modified fire sticks allowing for subscription-based content to be downloaded illegally.

He was caught after intelligence was passed to authorities. Information was handed over to the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) devices being sold that provided illegal access to premium sport, TV shows and movies which belonged to BT and Sky, reports LiverpoolEcho.

An investigation was opened by FACT into a Facebook profile called 'Kev O'James' on May 3, 2022. The profile advertised the sale of subscription packages worth up to £85 on Amazon Fire sticks or remotely on smart devices.

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"Don’t go with amateurs who have been selling for a few months," it read. "Come with us, we have been selling for many years."

The account on Facebook was linked to the personal account of O'Donnell. And it was found both accounts were operated by the same person.

FACT officers then instigated a test purchase from the O’James account, paying £40 to a PayPal address for a 12 month subscription package. An investigation of purchase confirmed the illegal streaming service allowed customers to access Sky and BT content.

In the six months between February and August 2022, FACT found 574 transactions had been made to the PayPal account, adding up to £136,000. A further inspection in July 2023 found both Facebook accounts were still operating and still promoting the sale of the dodgy fire sticks.

O'Donnell, 41, was arrested on July 4, and admitted "sole responsibility for the offences". He appeared at Liverpool Crown Court today, June 4, where he pleaded guilty to supplying articles for the use of fraud, and providing a service designed to circumvent technological measures.

Prosecutor Kevin Liston said: “Quantification of the loss is difficult and is based on average. Sky estimate that, based on your average subscription cost in the period that the offences were taking place, the loss could have ranged as high as £371,000. BT, using a similar approach, estimate the losses could have been as high as £471,000. Significant losses were potentially caused by the venture.”

Kyra Badman, defending, said: “Right from the outset the defendant accepted his involvement. His involvement is not quite as sophisticated as it might seem. He was purchasing fire sticks for £40 and making a little profit on top of that, and that’s how the enterprise started.

“It’s clearly accepted he was motivated by financial gain, not in respect of any lavish lifestyle, but driven by his addictions at the time: alcohol, but primarily a significant gambling addiction. These addictions were driven by an emotional response to what was happening in his life at the time.

“His father passed away in September 2022 having suffered with cancer for two years. The defendant was extremely close with his father, he worked with him every day of his life for 20 years, and the loss of his father had a significant effect on him. That meant he was more reliant on measures he felt helped him, alcohol and the escape of gambling.”

She added O’Donnell was the main breadwinner for his disabled five-year-old son.

The judge, Recorder Michelle Brown, told him: "This was offending that took place over a sustained period of time, three years. Your offending involved large sums of money, not only in terms of your potential gain, but in terms of the potential loss caused to the companies involved."

She accepted O'Donnell had not understood the seriousness of his crimes, his personal mitigation, and a probation report which placed him at low risk of reoffending in future. She sentenced him to a total of two years in prison, suspended for two years.