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Distributor of Illegal DirecTV Reception Equipment Sentenced

A South Carolina man was sentenced to five months in prison, followed by five months' home detention, and ordered to pay $346,104 in restitution to DirecTV for distributing illegal satellite-access devices, officials said.

Michael Hill, 53, of Iva, S.C., was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Paducah, Ky., according to a press release issued Thursday by the Department of Justice.

Hill’s charges related to the distribution of 437 illegal-access devices in Kentucky and elsewhere throughout the United States, which permitted users unauthorized, free access to all programming offered by DirecTV, including pay-per-view programs, according to David Huber, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky.

Hill entered a guilty plea Feb. 21 of engaging in a criminal conspiracy with three other defendants, including William Charles Rath, a Canadian citizen, who was the ringleader of the scheme.

Much of the evidence incriminating the conspirators was seized as a result of a search warrant executed by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service, with the assistance of the Royal Mounted Police.

This evidence indicated that Hill participated with co-defendant Jeffrey Sanders in the distribution of illegal-access devices, which were manufactured by co-defendant Gregory Chaffin at his plant in Franklin Furnace, Ohio. Chaffin pleaded guilty to manufacturing and selling these illegal devices, as did Sanders. Both Chaffin and Sanders were sentenced last October to one year’s imprisonment, which they are currently serving.

Rath, the principal defendant and a Canadian citizen, fled the jurisdiction of the Canadian courts in July 2006. While the United States’ request for extradition of him was pending, he forfeited a $100,000 Canadian bond. His current whereabouts are unknown and a warrant for his arrest is outstanding.

The case was prosecuted by assistant U.S. Attorney James R. Lesousky Jr. and was investigated by the IRS, Criminal Investigations and the FBI.