Prominent YouTuber among those charged in huge cable TV piracy case

Prominent YouTuber among those charged in huge cable TV piracy case
© Greg Nash

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday indicted three men in a wide-reaching video copyright infringement scheme that lasted for over three years.

The indictment was unsealed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and named Bill Omar Carrasquillo, 35, of Swedesboro, N.J.; Jesse Gonzales, 42, of Pico Rivera, Calif.; and Michael Barone, 36, of Richmond Hill, N.Y., as perpetrators. 

Federal charges against the three men include fraudulently obtaining cable television accounts and reselling copyrighted content to thousands of unknowing subscribers. The defendants also allegedly defrauded banks and retail processors to secure their own merchant processing accounts. 

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Operating between March 2016 and November 2019, the defendants are alleged to have made over $30 million in video piracy.

“You can’t just go and monetize someone else’s copyrighted content with impunity,” Acting Special Agent in Charge Bradley S. Benavides of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division said in a statement issued by DOJ. “That’s the whole point of securing a copyright. Theft is theft, and if you’re going to willfully steal another party’s intellectual property, the FBI stands ready to step in and shut you down.”

One of the defendants, Carrasquillo, is also accused of transforming his gains from the scheme into various assets, including home properties and luxury sports cars. When federal agents attempted to execute warrants to seize these assets, Carrasquillo allegedly lied to the officers and attempted to hide several of the vehicles.

Carrasquillo was arrested on September 21 and is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and related offenses, 19 counts of public performance of a protected work; four counts of access device fraud; six counts of wire fraud; three counts of making false statements to a bank, among a litany of other federal crimes.

The Philadelphia Inquirer clarifies that Carrasquillo is a well-known YouTuber and operates under the name “Omi in a Hellcat.” He has over 790,000 subscribers.

Some of his videos document his new cars, including a Lamborghini Huracan and Rolls Royce truck. A recent video livestreams his arrest, which the Inquirer posted

Carrasquillo also documented the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s inquiries in his streaming services, with one video from the end of June anticipating his indictment. 

“During this whole process I’m going to remain very professional, win or lose,” he said in the video. 

Gonzalez was arrested on September 21 as well, and is facing similar charges, including wire fraud, money laundering, and public performance of a protected work. 

If convicted, Carrasquillo could face up to 514 years in prison, and Gonzalez could face 244 years. 

Barone, who was issued a court summons, is facing similar charges and up to 130 years' jail time if convicted. 

“These defendants are charged with engaging in a massive, years-long scheme to steal copyrighted content, which is a serious federal crime,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania commented in the press announcement. “As this prosecution shows, protecting intellectual property rights is an important priority of our office and the entire Department of Justice.”

This story was updated at 5:03 p.m.