NOVEMBER 28, 2002
POLICE TARGET 'GREY-MARKET' SATELLITE DISH OWNERS IN STING (Darren Bernhardt and Ryan Lorge, Saskatoon Star Phoenix)
A number of Saskatoon grey-market satellite dish owners said they got a surprise when visiting Satellite Warehouse Wednesday.
Callers to The StarPhoenix said they had the smart cards for their satellite dishes confiscated by waiting RCMP officers as they went into the business to get hooked back up for free service.
Greg Adams was one Saskatoon resident caught in the act.
"I walked in there with it in my hand hoping to get it fixed up because it went down (Tuesday) night, and I was greeted at the door. The person said, 'are you here to get your card fixed?' And I said 'Yeah.' And he said, 'Have you got it?' And he looks at my hand, and what am I going to say? Yeah, it's right here, " said Adams.
"And then he took it and asked me for ID and told me he was RCMP, and then I look around and they're all over the place."
Adams owns a DSS system, which picks up American direct-to-home (DTH) satellite signals. The smart card is the part of a satellite system that allows owners to access and view the programming, transmitted into their homes.
Several places offer an under-the-counter tech service, formatting the cards so that they will give owners access to programming without having to pay the supplier. Adams said he pays around $20 each time his card needs to be reformatted.
According to Adams, the cards can be purchased for around $300. He said he briefly questioned whether the RCMP had the right to confiscate his card, which was a gift from a relative.
"I did say, 'don't you have to charge me with something before you can take something from me?' I didn't think they could actually seize something from me without (charging me)". And then they said, 'Well, we can charge you if you'd like." But at that point I figured I'd better quietly leave," laughed Adams.
RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Brian Jones confirmed that a number of search warrants were executed across the province on Wednesday evening.
"But I cannot confirm the subject matter of the search warrants because (the intended target) is still being worked on," he said.
An April 26 Supreme Court ruling declared it illegal to sell any equipment, including code numbers, smart cards, and other technology, that allows viewers to hack into American DTH signals. Only Canadian DTH signal carriers like Bell ExpressVu or StarChoice are licensed for viewing in Canada.
American DTH signal carriers routinely disable black market cards, after which the owners must get the card reformatted.