Notts man who made thousands off pirated audiobooks jailed

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A Nottinghamshire man, who made more than £50,000 on illegally reproduced audiobooks, has been convicted under copyright law.

Police began their enquiries into the activities of Manrico Toschi in 2012, when they were informed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of pirated audiobooks for sale for online. The audiobooks in question had been copied from material produced exclusively for disabled U.S. citizens.

An investigation by the East Midland Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) into the 43-year-old’s online activities revealed more than 10,000 audiobooks in his digital library, dating between January 2008 and June 2014. These were stored within his home computer and on six other hard drives.

Initially Toschi traded under his own name, but following cease and desist notices from the authorities in 2012, he found a new way to continue his criminal enterprise. Using the pseudonym Lee Sharpe, he opened a new bank account and advertised pirated audiobooks across the globe under that name.

One such title was a Terry Pratchett audiobook, which featured a compilation of 47 of the Discworld novels, published by Penguin Random House.

Toschi, of Main Street in Calverton, invested the takings from his illicit business in tax efficient savings accounts and also bought a second property in Nottingham, which he subsequently let.

He pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to distributing digital books and software contrary to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, thereby receiving £56,000; using a false name contrary to the Theft Act 1968; and money laundering.

At Nottingham Crown Court on Tuesday, November 8, he was sentenced to two years imprisonment.

The court also determined that Toschi had benefited from his criminality to the sum of £56,000 and granted a Proceeds of Crime Act Confiscation Order to reflect this. Toschi must repay this amount within three months.

Claire Anker is the Digital Infringement Manager at The Publishers Association, the trade organisation serving more than 100 publishers in the UK.

She said: “The sale of infringing content damages publishers, authors and consumers alike – in this particular case purchasers were led to believe that they were supporting their favourite authors, when in fact they were bankrolling the accused’s lifestyle.

“We urge audiobook listeners to be careful when looking for a bargain online and to make sure they only use legal services.

“The Publishers Association actively works to protect our members’ authors and rights and we would like to thank the East Midlands Regional Asset Recovery Team [RART] for their diligent work in bringing this case to a positive conclusion.”

Detective Constable Darren Lewis, from EMSOU’s RART, said: “This case is a reflection of the changing face of crime in a digital world and the new challenges these types of offences bring for police.

“Hiding behind a fake name and computer screen Toschi had been making thousands of pounds from this criminal activity, without having to leave the comfort of his home in a quiet East Midlands village.

“Copyright infringement is essentially stealing. It deprives the creator of their dues and the ensuing cost is ultimately felt by the consumer.”