On September 21, Acting Special Agents of the FBI arrested three individuals for operating a large-scale able theft scheme between at least March 2016 and at least November 2019, in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They received a 62 count indictment that also included tax evasion and fraud.
According to court documents cited by the FBI, the individuals “fraudulently obtained cable television accounts and then resold copyrighted content to thousands of their own subscribers. They offered live TV, on-demand shows and movies, and pay-per-view events by subscription.
According to the indictment, the defendants also made fraudulent misrepresentations to banks and merchant processors in an effort to obtain merchant processing accounts. The defendants allegedly earned more than $30 million from the scheme.”
One of the three defendants, Bill Omar Carrasquillo – known to his 800,000 YouTube subscribers as “Omi in a Hellcat” – used profits to buy homes and dozens of vehicles, including high-end sports cars, which he attempted to hide from the authorities. According to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, that defendent went from dealing drugs on the streets of Philly to “running a multi-million dollar streaming TV empire” in just three years.
Read the FBI statement
Read the Philadelphia Enquirer article
Why it matters
Penalties are stiff. One of the three (Carrasquillo) was charged with one count of copyright infringement, “one count of reproduction of a protected work; 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; 19 counts of money laundering; two counts of making false statements to law enforcement officers; two counts of removal of property to prevent seizure; and four counts of tax evasion.” If convicted of all counts, he would up to 514 years’ imprisonment.
“We take seriously schemes for profit that infringe upon copyrights,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The charges announced today demonstrate the department’s continuing commitment to protect copyright holders from theft.”