Those Fancy Cars He Flaunted on YouTube? A $30 Million Fraud Scheme Paid for Them, U.S. Says
A flamboyant YouTuber known as Omi in a Hellcat was charged with illegally selling copyrighted TV shows and movies through an online service, prosecutors said.Sept. 22, 2021
Bill Omar Carrasquillo, a YouTuber known as Omi in a Hellcat, denies charges that he illegally sold copyrighted movies and TV shows through his own service.via YouYube
On YouTube, he was known as Omi in a Hellcat, a flamboyant business mogul in diamond-studded jewelry who commanded a fleet of luxury cars including Lamborghinis and ran his own clothing line and restaurant.
But even as he lounged in his sprawling suburban home and showed off his rotating collection of high-end sports cars, he acknowledged that the federal government was closing in.
In June, he posted a video titled, “THE FBI IS BACK!!!,” in which he filmed himself wearing a large diamond-encrusted pendant that bore his brand name, Reloaded. In a doleful mood, he warned his 790,000 subscribers that the F.B.I. had seized more than 30 of his cars and millions of dollars from his bank account and that he was going to be indicted on charges that could include money laundering.
“I’ve been kind of been depressed about it,” he confessed.
On Wednesday, federal prosecutors saidthat they had charged Omi, whose real name is Bill Omar Carrasquillo, and two of his associates, in a scheme that involved illegally selling copyrighted video content to thousands of subscribers on Mr. Carrasquillo’s own online service, which was called, at various times, Reboot, Gears TV, Reloaded and Gears Reloaded.
The scheme netted Mr. Carrasquillo and his associates more than $30 million from about March 2016 until at least November 2019, according to prosecutors. Mr. Carrasquillo, 35, of Swedesboro, N.J., used the money to buy houses and dozens of cars, including the ones that he regularly flaunted on his YouTube channel, prosecutors said.
Mr. Carrasquillo could face life in prison if he is convicted of the charges, which include conspiracy, violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, reproduction of a protected work, access device fraud, making false statements to a bank and money laundering.
Digital piracy schemes have proliferated in recent years, and a 2019 report released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated that they cost the American economy at least $29.2 billion a year.
In an indictment, prosecutors said, Mr. Carrasquillo and his associates, Jesse Gonzales, 42, of Pico Rivera, Calif., and Michael Barone, 36, of Richmond Hill, N.Y., must forfeit nearly $35 million in assets, including more than 50 cars and motorcycles and dozens of properties in Philadelphia.
“You can’t just go and monetize someone else’s copyrighted content with impunity,” Bradley S. Benavides, the acting special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Philadelphia division, said in a statement. “That’s the whole point of securing a copyright.”
Donte Mills, Mr. Carrasquillo’s lawyer, said his client denied the charges.
“Mr. Carrasquillo tapped into a brand-new, unregulated industry and was very successful,” Mr. Mills said in a statement. “Most people are called pioneers when they do that; Omar is called a criminal. The government assumes my client was not smart enough to do this legally because of his background. He is and we will prove that.”