A Bristol-based console 'Chipper' who has made in excess of £1 million from flogging dodgy console chips online has been convicted in what ELSPA’s anti-piracy unit is calling a landmark crown court hearing.
'Mr Modchips' is the second person in UK to be convicted in crown court for console chipping offenses.
‘Modchips’ (otherwise known in his Earth identity as 39-year-old Neil Stanley Higgs of Speedwell Road, Bristol) was found guilty at Bristol Crown Court last month of 26 offences under Section 296ZB of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act – which is an amendment to the 1988 act that came into force in 2003 to tackle the burgeoning chipping offences problem.
Higgs was found guilty on counts of advertising, supplying and selling modchips, in addition to being found guilty of 12 counts of possessing chipped games consoles in the course of a business and another 11 counts of possessing ‘Executor’ modchips for Microsoft consoles and Viper GC chip for Nintendo consoles in the course of a business.
He was cleared of a further four counts of possessing chipped consoles in the course of a business as it was shown to the court that these were owned by friends and family (a “bit ‘o’ personal”, as the drug dealer would have it!). He originally claimed all nineteen chipped consoles were owned by friends and family, but it seems that the judge wasn’t having any of that.
Higgs’ business premises (his parents' flat!) were raided by police and Bristol City Council’s Trading Standards after ELSPA (the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association) investigators unearthed illegal chips and modification equipment being sold through his website at www.mrmodchips.com.
The raid was one of three carried out at the time by three Trading Standards teams simultaneously under the moniker ‘Operation Barnet’.
Michael Rawlinson, managing director of ELSPA, said, “This case today sets a major precedent which marks a milestone in the fight against piracy, protecting the games industry’s investment in fantastic games. It sends a clear message to anyone tempted to become involved in ‘chipping’ consoles that this is a criminal offence and will be dealt in the strongest possible way. The modification of consoles is an activity that ELSPA’s anti-piracy team is prioritising – it is encouraging to see the UK courts do the same.”
Robin Whittle, Principal Trading Standards Officer for Bristol Trading Standards, said, “This is a very significant result following a complex investigation. The defendant has been running a business of providing the means to get around the copyright protection on games consoles and the jury have clearly recognised this in the guilty verdicts they returned today."
Further court proceedings are imminent and a financial investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) is underway. It is highly likely that Higgs will face both a custodial sentence at Her Majesty’s Pleasure and have to pay back the whopping great amounts of cash that he has made.
Or will he? Closer investigation unearths the fact that Higgs is seemingly still operating www.mrmodchips.com
but from a new address. In Bangkok, Thailand.
Has Higgs done a runner? Or will he return home to face the wrath of ELSPA’s Anti Piracy Unit sometime soon? SPOnG will be the first to let you know.