Three man, two of them operators of a local satellite service company and one of them a Burlington resident, face the possibility of hefty fines after being charged by the RCMP.
The co-owners of PAS Technologies on Fairview Street, along with an official at Fairlight Electronics of Kitchener, were given summons' to appear in court Feb. 16. They are to answer to charges laid by Milton RCMP relating to the use and sale of American satellite programming.
The three men face one count each of theft of communication and conspiracy to contravene Section 9 of the Radiocommunications Act. The two companies are also named in the charges.
Cpl. Brian Johnson, of the Milton RCMP's Federal Enforcement Section said, if convicted on both counts, the individuals could face "substantial fines" exceeding tens of thousands of dollars.
Neither PAS owner could be reached for comment.
Altogether, RCMP seized computer hardware adn software, customer files and 321 access cards valued in excess of $250,000. However, no charges were laid at the time.
The federal authorities now allege re-programmed "black market" satellite access cards were sold by Fairlight Electronics to PAS Technologies.
RCMP said complaints were received by them from customers who said they bought U.S. satellite dishes, receivers, and cards from PAS only to have the systems fail when American distributors sent out an electronic jamming signal which rendered the cards useless.
U.S. satellite service providers require their customers to pay a monthly fee to receive programming. RCMP said Star Choice and ExpressVu, licensed by the CRTC, are the only lawful providers of Direct-To-Home Digital Satellite Systems in Canada.
To date, there have been conflicting court rulings on the issue in the Maritimes and in Western Canada. In question is whether it is legal for Canadian companies to tap into the satellite signal of U.S.-based providers and sell access to that programming to dish owners in this country.
Halton Regional Police have been following the situation here. Det. Terry Dickie of the Fraud Unit in Burlington said they've received less than two-dozen complaints about PAS.
Dickie said the "wink-and-nod aspect" of the sales relationship between PAS adn the majority of its clients will make it difficult to prove a fraud has been committed.
"Most people knew that they weren't buying an off-the-shelf (unaltered) satellite system. But they have to get beyond the issue of the life of the access card because how long a card lives is out of their (sellers) hands and is controlled by the legitimate service provider.
"Prosecution doesn't seem imminent", Dickie said of PAS, but he added police are still willing to talk to customers to hear what they were promised by PAS.