Cable Piracy Do’s and Don’ts
For Private Investigators

By: Jack Murray CLI,CFE,CCDI


Over the past few years, there has been a proliferation of pay per view events on television. These are designed mostly for home viewers but more and more commercial locations are finding this a profitable addition to their viewing menus.
The cable TV proceeds represent a substantial amount of income to promoters of major events such as championship boxing matches. Home viewers are a relatively small portion of their revenues, the bulk comes from commercial locations.
Cable pirates are people who find a way to show the event without paying the required fees. This is done in a number of ways, but the most common way is to bring a cable box from a residence into the club and hook it up to the clubs TV. This means they pay the $45.00 or $50.00 home viewing fee instead of the $1,500.00, or more, commercial fee.

Generally speaking, cable piracy is detected by private investigators, paid by the law firms that ultimately try to collect the money that is owed. The attorneys then rely on the affidavits provided by the investigators to file suit in either State or Federal Courts to get judgments against the pirates.

One of the pioneers in piracy detection was Jimmy Mesis, who is now the publisher of PI Magazine. I personally worked for Jimmy for six years before going on to work direct for the attorneys involved. This was because I didn’t know any better.

This is an important part of the equation. If you are working for anyone, other than the actual attorney involved, you are not going to earn as much money as working for the attorney direct. At this time the ONLY law firm that has exclusive piracy rights is the Law Firm of Thomas P. Riley, 727 West Seventh Street, Suite 722, Los Angeles, California 90017. 213-229-9292. The contact there is Veronica Manriquez. These people are a pleasure to work with and pay their bills promptly.

Basically it is a matter of you eat what you kill. You get paid for each affidavit that you submit on a location that pirated an event. You get extra pay for pictures of the location and for alcoholic beverage licensing information. Generally, the affidavits and associated information, have to be in the law offices within ten days of the event.

If you wait till the day of the event to go out looking for violators you are almost doomed to failure. You must start way in advance of the event. As you are out in your every day working chores start to record the names and locations of any place that looks like it might be a logical place to show the fight, or other sporting event. This will eventually give you a data base to work from.

Check out the alternate media publications in your market that carry ads for topless bars etc and note those that advertise how many TVs they have, or that say they show sporting events, then add these to your data base.

As you build your base start developing an area layout or map for the night of the event. This will save you time and gas. Time is a very important factor as your window of opportunity is very limited, usually sometime between two and a half to three hours, this all depends on how long the fights last.

Starting two or three days before the event check out the locations on your list for signs advertising the event. Yes bootleggers advertise their transgressions. We have even had illegal locations that bought half page ads in the local publications advertising their showing of fights.

The legal list will arrive sometime on Friday afternoon and at that time you lay out your routes for your investigators, marking out those locations that are legal, and noting those that have any kind of advertising (signs etc).

Saturday morning is a good time to check one more time for the presence of signs at these locations. Finding signs is very important, as these should be the first places you hit on the night of the event. If the event starts at 8:00 PM your time, you should be sitting outside a known pirate location at 7:55PM waiting for the event to come on.

Also, if they have signs up on Saturday, and they are not on the legal list, this is an ideal time to photograph the location, showing the signs advertising the event, because many times they take the signs down right after the event.

Starting around 6:PM our investigators get on the phones and start calling every place that is NOT on the legal list and asking if they are going to be carrying the fight. You usually get a manager, or a bar tender, who may not even be aware that what the ownership is doing is illegal, because the owner or the manager has made the arrangements and hasn’t told anybody it’s illegal.

You will be amazed how many times a bootlegger will tell you they’re carrying it. One word of caution, we have had clubs tell us on the telephone they’re carrying the fight but when we went there, they weren’t. Don’t ever accept a telephone conversation as being an absolute hit.

Before you start out, make sure your watch and/or digital clock in your vehicle is exact in it’s time. I use the digital clock in my car as it is easier to read when your ripping and running. Match this against the time tone of a radio station
Be as inconspicuous as possible. Get in and split.

Our investigators carry a small pocket size tape recorder with them. As you exit the location, you dictate to your recorder the name and address of the location, the number of TVs in the location, how much was charged to view the event, and a description of at least one employee. Look for the sign that gives the legal maximum capacity as set by the Fire Marshall. In Texas this is usually very close to the door, but not always. After your back in your vehicle you need to record the license plate numbers of at least four vehicles outside the location. If possible, look for ones that are closest to the door.

As soon as is practical, preferably early the next morning, go to the locations you caught bootlegging and take two pictures of the location, one full shot at a distance and a second one that brings you up close to the address. If the signs are still up be sure and get a close up shot that shows the signs, in context with the rest of the outside of the location.

Check with your State Alcoholic Beverage Licensing Commission as to the availability of license information. In Texas, the TABC is on line and we do that as soon as we get back (usually on a Saturday night) and have those forms done first. We store the template for this on our disc that has all the forms we have to do for every fight.

Be careful with your affidavits. If your not sure of something, for instance the exact number of people in the establishment, put down approximately. Always put your times entering and leaving the establishment as “approximately” because you may be a minute or two off and that’s entirely understandable as long as you make that clear in your affidavits.

In your description of an employee cover the basics, approximate age, height, weight, color of hair, sex, black, white, Hispanic, what they’re wearing etc. Try to get a name, if they’re security guards they usually have a name tag of some kind and a patch identifying the company. This is very important.

If you didn’t see the legal capacity posted you can always visit your local building department or the Fire Marshall’s Office and they will have that information on file.

Describe the interior and note such things as pool tables, slot machines, electronic games, neon beer signs, etc.
Remember at some point in time you may be called upon to testify in deposition, or trial, as to the accuracy of your affidavit.
Our procedure with Reilly’s office is that on Monday morning we Email them a list of the establishments we caught, and try to have all our affidavits typed, signed and notarized by Wednesday.

The going rate at this time is $250.00 for an affidavit, 2 pictures and the liquor license information. Reilly usually pays within 30 days of receipt of the materials. It’s not a bad idea to send your material via FedEx or UPS and have a receipt for it. We have never had a problem getting paid from Reilly. We have had trouble in the past from other offices.
We also get extra pay for any time we have to testify. This is usually handled by a local attorney, where the files have been referred for collection.

Good luck or should we say “good hunting.”


This material is part of Piracy Investigation For Private Investigators.
An official remote learning NAIS online seminar and manual.



By: Jack Murray CLI,CFE,CCDI
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Related Material: Top Ten Steps To Catching Signal Pirates: Thomas P. Riley Law Firm

Copyright: 2003 by Jack Murray. All rights reserved.
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