February 16, 2022
A YouTube personality from Swedesboro wove rags into riches by allegedly stealing content from cable providers and reselling it for a much lower price online.
Bill Omar Carrasquillo, known as "Omi in a Hellcat" to his more than 800,000 YouTube subscribers, has been indicted for running a piracy scheme that netted him and two associates more than $30 million, federal prosecutors allege.
Carrasquillo, 35, has agreed to plead guilty in the case. The terms of his plea agreement have not been released and are pending the approval of a judge. He faces a litany of charges, including copyright infractions, wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion.
Carrasquillo previously had maintained his innocence, and has been documenting his saga online since May 2019. But he acknowledged his guilt in a YouTube video posted to his channel earlier this month.
"Ignorance is no excuse," Carrasquillo said. "It's about accepting responsibility."
Carrasquillo said a behind-the-scenes video from Disney's Pixar helped change his mind. The clip underscored the immense work required to create a film that viewers finish in less than two hours. It reminded him how he felt when people began knocking off his "Reloaded" clothing brand.
The YouTube star grew up in North Philadelphia. He dropped out of school in 11th grade and later was incarcerated for selling drugs, which he said he stopped doing in 2014.
In the years since, Carrasquillo showcased his glamorous lifestyle on his YouTube channel, where videos like "OMI IN A HELLCAT SHOWS OFF HIS CAR COLLECTION" and "OMI IN A HELLCAT EXPLAINS HOW HE GOT RICH" have garnered more than 1 million views.
Prosecutors say Carrasquillo's money came from the cable TV piracy scheme that he ran with two other men – Jesse Gonzales, 42, of Pico Rivera, California and Michael Barone, 36, of New York City.
Prosecutors allege Carrasquillo used the money to buy dozens of luxury cars, including a Mercedes Benz, a Bentley and a McLaren, as well as numerous properties in the Philadelphia region, including a sprawling Gloucester County home once owned by Phillies star Jimmy Rollins.
From March 2016 to November 2019, the three men allegedly opened fraudulent cable accounts with Comcast, DirecTV and Verizon Fios and resold copyrighted content to thousands of users through an illegal streaming service known by several different names, including Gears TV and Reboot.
For $15 per month, subscribers got access to premium on-demand content, pay-per-view events and several live TV channels, prosecutors allege. It was finally shut down by authorities in 2019.
Prior to his guilty plea, Carrasquillo and his lawyers argued he was operating in a legal gray area. In January 2021, Congress passed the "Protecting Lawful Streaming Act" which closed this perceived loophole in federal copyright law.
Prosecutors also allege that Carrasquillo lied to investigators and tried to hide some of his vehicles after authorities tried to seize some of them.
Authorities have seized a bank account with more than $5.2 million, and several vehicles, including a 2018 Mercedes Benz AMG that had $80,000 in cash inside and a 2020 Bentley Continental with more than $20,000 in cash inside.
Prosecutors allege Carrasquillo did not claim the income on his tax returns, noting all income is taxable – even that derived from illegal means.
Rivera also has pleaded guilty, but Barone's lawyer told the Inquirer that he's maintaining his innocence.
If convicted on all counts, Carrasquillo faces up to 514 years in prison.