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Woolwich man, ‘Omi in a Hellcat’, must pay millions for cable TV piracy conviction

PHILADELPHIA — A South Jersey YouTube celebrity has been ordered to forfeit more than $30 million and pay more than $15 million in restitution for his role in a scheme to steal programming from cable TV providers.

Bill Omar Carrasquillo, 36, of Woolwich also received a five-and-a-half-year prison sentence for copyright infringement, according to the US Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia.

Carrasquillo and his accomplices illegalized copyrighted content from Comcast Corp., Verizon Fios and other cable TV providers and then resold it for viewing by their own subscribers from March 2016 to November 2019, the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Who is Omi in a Hellcat?

In a lawsuit, Carrasquillo’s attorney described his client as a high school dropout who grew up in an environment of poverty and abuse in Philadelphia.

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According to the filing, Carrasquillo sought a “safe haven” on YouTube, where he attracted more than 800,000 subscribers to his channel, Omi in a Hellcat.

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It alleged that Carrasquillo, with a million followers on Instagram, generated “significant legal compensation” from the YouTube channel, a construction company and other projects.

Carrasquillo initially developed a legal business that sold set-top boxes programmed with old TV series, the attorney, Donte Mills of New York City, said in the sentencing memorandum.

Carrasquillo first bought the set-top boxes from an online retailer and then moved on to making his own products, the memorandum says.

‘He crossed the line’

“It was legal until he crossed the border to have some recordings on his platform,” said Mills. “Omar knows that he has gone too far with his product to stay competitive and that he has broken the law.”

“Once he added copyrighted works, it became criminal criminal activity,” the attorney acknowledged.

The plan, which operated as Gears TV, used equipment obtained from China to thwart encryption measures that prevent copying of programs from cable TV providers, the federal prosecutor’s office said.

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Carrasquillo pleaded guilty under a plea deal to crimes including conspiracy, reproduction of a protected work, money laundering and tax evasion.

According to US attorney Jacqueline Romero, the illegal programming was offered to tens of thousands of subscribers at home and abroad.

The arrangement supported a lavish lifestyle for Carrasquillo, who bought homes and dozens of vehicles, including high-end sports cars, according to a 69-page indictment in September 2021.

As part of his sentence, Carrasquillo was ordered to pay $10.7 million to the victim cable companies and more than $5 million to the IRS.

A forfeiture order demands “all property” obtained from the proceeds of the piracy scheme.

That includes $5.2 million seized from a bank account, $20,000 recovered from a 2020 Bentley Continental and $80,000 from a 2018 Mercedes Benz AMG.

Luxury cars, motorcycles are forfeited

The order also identifies more than 50 vehicles. including about 20 motorcycles.

It is also seeking forfeiture of more than 20 properties, including Carrasquillo’s 5,100-square-foot home on 2.5 acres on Fox Chase Court in Woolwich and a home on Fern Road in Millville.

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Carrasquillo was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III in Philadelphia federal court.

An anti-piracy coalition, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, welcomed Carrasquillo’s prosecution.

“There is no justification for illegally streaming content, and the conviction of these felons once again confirms that offenders will face serious consequences,” said Jan van Voorn, head of the Los Angeles-based coalition.

He described the streaming operation as “one of the largest piracy operations of its kind ever prosecuted by (federal authorities).”

Jim Walsh is a senior reporter at the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal.

This article originally appeared on Cherry Hill Courier-Post: Bill Omar Carrasquillo Convicted of Role in Cable TV Piracy Program

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