Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

When Martin Mullen was sentenced to seven years in jail by a Florida judge this week, his wife stood up and screamed "You know the truth."

"I said it loud, and they told me to leave," Francine Mullen recalled from her home in London, Ont. "It's wrong. It's a horrible thing that has happened."

Court records say that Mr. Mullen ran one of the largest and most sophisticated pirate satellite-television-receiver operations the industry has seen. The organization was run from the family's video-production business in London and boasted tens of thousands of clients across North America.

Story continues below advertisement

The Mullens are alleged to have made millions of dollars from the scam -- as much as $4.5-million (U.S.) in one three-month period -- and hidden it in a string of banks from the Turks and Caicos to the Cayman Islands to Egypt and Britain.

Along with the seven-year sentence, Mr. Mullen was ordered to pay $24-million in restitution.

As well, industry giant NDS Americas Inc. is suing most of the family, including Ms. Mullen, three children, two brothers, several in-laws and Mr. Mullen's 78-year father, in Canada, for $110-million.

Ms. Mullen called the allegations ridiculous and said the worst thing her husband did was dabble in the grey-market satellite-TV-receiver business. She said U.S. prosecutors eager to look good duped him into pleading guilty.

"He was told by the prosecutors that if he pled guilty, he would be home within six months."

The family business is gone and bank accounts are frozen. "I have what's in the bank today, which is less than $4,000," Ms. Mullen said. "And, I have what's in my purse, probably $100 or $200."

Lawyers involved in case have no regrets about going after Mr. Mullen and his family. "In the United States they call people like Mr. Mullen economic terrorists," said Bill McKenzie, an Ontario lawyer who heads the action.

Story continues below advertisement

He scoffed at suggestions that Mr. Mullen was tricked into a guilty plea, noting that he had a team of lawyers.

The Mullens have a long history in the video and satellite-TV-receiver business. Mr. Mullen immigrated to Canada from Scotland as a teenager and married Francine in 1973. In 1981, he was arrested on a marijuana charge and served 10 months in jail. The couple moved to Florida to start over.

They established a video-production business and attracted a cluster of corporate clients. But immigration officials learned of the drug charge and ordered Mr. Mullen out. The family went to the Cayman Islands, then back to Canada in 1996, after Mr. Mullen applied for a pardon.

They settled in London and started a business called Multi-Media Images. It grew quickly and soon had 15 employees producing videos for clients such as the Canada Summer Games and Bank of Montreal.

It went into the satellite-TV-receiver grey market by helping Canadians set up U.S. mailing addresses to buy programming from DirecTV and other satellite services not permitted in Canada.

But court documents say Mr. Martin made bogus "smart cards," the programming devices satellite companies give customers to unscramble signals.

Story continues below advertisement

He set up a network of 100 distributors and held two-day hacking seminars, complete with instructional videos, they say.

According to court filings, the money poured in. Mr. Martin allegedly made $100,000 (U.S.) from each seminar and sold fake cards for up to $200 a piece.

In one three-month period, the documents say, he sold 16,000 cards.

But the industry was watching. In 1996, DirecTV won a $5-million court order in Seattle against him, and in 2001, police raided Multi-Media.

Then NDS Americas, which makes smart cards, hired an investigator to infiltrate Mr. Mullen's organization. In June, while on a trip to Tampa orchestrated by the NDS agent, Mr. Mullen was arrested.

His daughter, Nicole McKenzie, 30, laughed at suggestions about a criminal organization.

Story continues below advertisement

"My dad didn't graduate from high school, and he's supposed to be the master of hacking? They are throwing out a huge net to see if they can find something. But there is nothing to find."

To which Mr. McKenzie, the lawyer, replied: "We will see. That's what courts are for."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies