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Conmen scammed pounds 600,000 fortune; Prosecutors hope they can recover cash.

Byline: Dan Warburton

MUSIC fraudsters who ran a licensing scam are battling to keep their pounds 600,000 fortune after industry watchdogs launched a bid to recoup the ill-gotten gains.

Father and son rogue traders Malcolm and Peter Wylie duped recording artists and music companies out of hundreds of thousands of pounds in a seven-year operation using their juke box business.

Earning a turnover of more than pounds 1m, they ran Gateshead-based company Access All Areas and distributed copyrighted songs without permission to pubs and clubs across the country.

But following their conviction last year, detectives from Northumbria Police launched an investigation to comb their accounts and assess their assets.

And the pair, along with business partner William Ross, are now due to appear at Newcastle Crown Court where prosecutors are attempting to strip them of more than pounds 600,000. Last night Richard Stewart, head of dubbing and tariff development at Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), the music industry licence watchdog, said: "The police have been going through their accounts.

"There's a long and complicated process where the police go through all the financial history to see what money they've got and to see what link it has to their illegal activity.

"A Proceeds of Crime Act application was made as they were convicted. It just goes to show that crime doesn't pay.

"You end up with a criminal record and the we will follow it up by trying to seize their assets. If criminals are unable to pay then it will affect their prison sentence and they will still owe and we will go after them their whole lives."

Malcolm Wylie and his son Peter set-up a string of companies selling music systems to pubs and clubs across the North East from their Gateshead-based company, which had a turn-over of more than pounds 1.3m.

But the tunes were downloaded without permission, costing artists and their record companies more than half a million pounds in royalties.

During a landmark legal case by licensing watchdogs BPI (British Recorded Music Industry) and the PPL, the pair were handed jail terms totaling more than four years.

Watchdogs believe the scam cost the industry around pounds 850,000, but it is believed the trio's legal team will dispute how much they netted from the operation.

Music chiefs last night vowed to stamp out royalty cheats and said they would pursue the criminals for more than half a million pounds.

Mr Stewart said: "They are disputing the figure that they benefited from."

During a hearing last year in Newcastle, Malcolm Wylie, 59, of Salcombe Gardens, Low Fell, Gateshead, admitted one count of distributing infringing copyright work between May 2003 and January 2009. He was sentenced to three years in prison and banned from taking the position of director for 10 years.

Peter Wylie, 27, of Malton Green Gardens, Harlow Green, Gateshead, was found guilty by a Crown Court jury of two counts of the same offence. He was given a nine-month prison sentence and a 15-month sentence, to run concurrently.

Ross, 66, of Australia Tower, Sunderland, became embroiled in the scam when he ploughed pounds 60,000 into the business. He was handed a 36-week prison sentence, suspended for one year as part of a community order.

ARTISTS ROBBED OF ROYALTIES GATESHEAD-BASED Access All Areas evaded paying music licensing bodies PPL and the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society fees during their seven-year scam. Among those affected in the illegal operation were high-profile recording artists including Robbie Williams, Lady GaGa and Girls Aloud. On their website the firm claimed to be fully licensed and used both company trademarks to market their Mixopia computerised jukeboxes. The company changed names several times and in May 2008, trading standards executed a warrant on behalf of PPL and the BPI to raid their offices.

Evidence of copyright infringement was discovered, which over the years had totalled hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Among the company's trading names was Access All Areas Entertainment, Access All Areas Production and Tracks Alive.

It sold and rented audio and visual jukeboxes to pubs and other leisure venues, sparking a prosecution by PPL and BPI, which represent record labels. An initial probe by the council led to charges being brought against Access All Areas Production Ltd and Rent-A-System, both based at Kingsway North, Team Valley, Gateshead. This was followed through by PPL, the music licensing company which, on behalf of 42,000 performers and 5,000 record companies, licenses recorded music.

This enables TV and radio stations, online streaming services and hundreds of thousands of shops, pubs and others using music in their business to obtain a single licence covering millions of recordings.


JAILED Peter Wylie of Arcadia Leisure was conviced and jailed
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 4, 2011
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