Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies arrested 21 men Thursday morning in a sting operation targeting people who steal satellite television service.
The six-week operation included a phony storefront at 4014 E. Broadway Road in Phoenix. Newspaper and In ternet advertisements brought the suspects into the store.
Undercover deputies offered to reprogram and hack into access cards so they were compatible with DirecTV service.
The men were booked into the county’s Madison Street Jail in Phoenix on suspicion of theft of services, computer tampering and possession of illegal access devices, all felony charges.
Two arrest warrants were still outstanding Thursday night.
Sheriff’s spokesman Paul Chagolla said 40 percent of the men were from the East Valley.
"It’s a serious problem. Millions and millions are lost by hacking into this service," said Sheriff Joe Arpaio. "If you want TV, pay for it legitimately like everybody else."
Arpaio said the arrests represent about $5,000 per month of stolen programming from DirecTV, the nation’s largest satellite television provider.
All suspects arrested clearly knew that the access cards they were buying were illegal, Arpaio said. Many made statements to undercover computer crime detectives they had been stealing these services for some time.