Belfast Telegraph

A loner who cared little for the material rewards of his scam

By Donna Deeney

As he sat in the dock of Londonderry Crown Court, there was no evidence that Paul Mahoney had made nearly £300,000 from the movie piracy scam he operated for six years.

Wearing a black and grey tracksuit over the top of a plain grey T-shirt, Mahoney bore little resemblance to what you might imagine a sophisticated internet fraudster or criminal mastermind would look like.

Even the judge presiding over the case, Philip Babington admitted he was baffled by the 29-year-old's motive for setting up the website.

Mahoney's website resulted in an estimated loss to the film and television industry of around £120m.

He said he did it because it was "something to do to pass the time" and that he had been "bored".

Over the course of the court hearing, it emerged that Mahoney was a loner with little education and even fewer friends.

From the court, a picture emerged of a lonely young man who has never held down a proper job since leaving school where he had difficulties because he was "seen as different due to his visual impairment".

His father left home when Mahoney was just a young boy and he grew up "with a history of anger" at his mother, blaming her for most of his difficulties.

Mahoney, who is partially sighted, left school without a single formal qualification but this did not mean he was unintelligent. Rather, as the brains behind a "highly sophisticated fraud", he showed a level of knowledge of the cyber world very few people possess.

At the time, Mahoney still lived at home with his mother and stepfather in the large housing development of Carnhill in Londonderry.

It was from his bedroom in this unassuming house that for six years Mahoney operated a series of websites which allowed people to watch films and television programmes for free. Another indicator that Mahoney was clever was his ability to make money from his websites and Judge Babington remarked that he had "prepared documentation for advertising agencies to sign and make payment to him".

But it was the lack of materialistic trappings from his earnings that show Mahoney's apparent lack of real interest in money and even Judge Babington noted that he "exhibits none of the features of a lavish lifestyle".

Detectives found £80,000 secreted in various places around Mahoney's home.

They also discovered evidence that the rest of the money he earned was spent on "paying some employees, running the site and also paying considerable sums for access to adult websites".

Whether Paul Mahoney's motivation was money or boredom, it is hard to gauge but as he was led down to the holding cells to begin his four-year sentence, the relief from the Director General of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) was almost palpable.

Belfast Telegraph


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