Court Denies Nebraska Piracy Appeal

A Federal Appeals Court let stand a lower-court decision ordering an alleged Nebraska pirate set-top manufacturing and distribution company and its principals to pay a Comcast division more than $9 million in penalties.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to reverse a summary judgment in the case brought by Comcast against TKA Electronics of Omaha, Neb., stating that the defendants had not provided a legal basis for a review.

In September 2005, Judge Joseph Bataillon of U.S. District Court in Nebraska issued the order, ruling that there was enough evidence before a trial to rule that TKA and its principals -- Thomas Abboud and his wife, Kim; Thomas' sister, Cathy, and her husband, Ray Vigneri; and brother Terry Abboud -- violated federal cable laws.

The defendants argued that they sold legal cable supplies to the public -- an activity allowed under federal law.

But the judge noted that Section 553 of the federal Cable Act prohibits the sale of cable descramblers if the seller knows the hardware will be used to steal signals. TKA has a disclaimer on its Web site ( warning end-users not to steal cable services, but the judge said the disclaimer itself inferred that the sellers knew how the descramblers would really be used.

The Eighth Circuit ruling let stand a $8.7 million judgment against TKA, plus a total of $576,929 in damages demanded of Thomas Abboud and his wife; $258,055 from the Vigneris; and $19,837 from Terry Abboud.

The family name is well known to cable-theft investigators. Court records in this case noted that the defendants in this action are related to Steve, Ronald, David and Gene Abboud, each of whom has been involved in litigation over the legitimacy of their cable-supplies businesses in Nebraska and other states.