November 17, 2005

Firm fined for selling signals
Betty Ann Adam, The StarPhoenix

A now-defunct Saskatoon company has been fined $50,000 for the illegal sale of satellite television signals.

Baron Technologies Ltd. pleaded guilty to 10 charges under the Radio Communication Act and was handed the fine Wednesday in Saskatoon provincial court.

Baron Technologies, owned by Kevin Baronowski, was one of seven Saskatchewan companies charged by the RCMP in October 2003 after legitimate distributors of Star Choice and Bell Express View complained of the unauthorized sale of the signal at its storefront operation at 618 Circle Dr. East.

Charges against Baronowski and another company he owned, DSS Depot Inc. were stayed by the Crown.

Baron Technologies was fined $5,000 on each count. Payment includes the voluntary forfeiture of $5,000 worth of equipment, $20,000 in bail that was tendered previously and a $25,000 cheque that was handed over Wednesday.

The guilty pleas relate to the sale and modification of "smart cards," which unscramble satellite television signals, but the company acknowledged the guilty plea encompassed the entire "large-scale operation," which also involved the sale of digital satellite dishes and receiver components, said Crown prosecutor Barrie Miller.

Plainclothes RCMP officers who visited the store in 2002 found it was selling illegal DirecTV RCA satellite systems with programmed cards for $249. It also sold Fifth Generation satellite systems for $499 and charged $20 for card programming.

Baron Technologies was "very blatant" about the sale of the equipment at the store, where about 25 customers came and went in the time the RCMP officer was there, Miller said.

The theft of satellite signals has a huge impact on legitimate distributors, says a 2002 report prepared by the Canadian Motion Pictures Distributors Association.

It estimated there were 600,000 unauthorized users of satellite dishes, which translated into $300 million to $400 million per year in lost revenues.

Defence lawyer Robert Skinner said the business had shut down by the time it was charged.

Businesses in Unity, Kerrobert and three in Regina were also charged after the 2003 investigation.

Jarret Stewart of Saskatoon pleaded guilty recently to one count of unauthorized distribution of satellite signals and was fined $3,000.

Darren Minisofer and his company, Satellite Warehouse, go to trial Dec. 3.