Even the best fiction writers probably couldn’t find a more hip Federal suspect than YouTuber Bill Omar Carasquillo.
Better known to his 800,000 subscribers as Omi In A Hellcat, Carasquillo has shared with his fans tours of the multiple expensive cars he owns, often seen outside his luxurious home in the Township of Woolwich.
There are loads of stories of how YouTubers and other social media personalities got rich just for their talent for self-promotion, so having one living in South Jersey might not be. not unusual. But, according to federal officials who caught Carasquillo last week, he wasn’t just a Kardashian.
Eastern Pennsylvania Attorney’s Office and FBI say Carasquillo got rich not by carefully curating his own celebrity, but through a $ 30 million fraud that illegally distributed copyrighted content by copyright via a private streaming service. The service was closed in 2019, when authorities reportedly began investigating him.
The victims here were players like Comcast, Verizon, and DirecTV – cable TV and Internet providers who are vilified by most of their near-monopoly customers. That’s why so many people have “cut the cord,” moving on to a patchwork of free live broadcasts and a select set of streaming TV services.
The genius of Omi In A Hellcat and his accomplices, according to prosecutors, was to buy a few legal subscriptions from cable or satellite providers and then redistribute the content through an Internet Protocol TV operation using special servers that removed anti-piracy encoding. Customers paid $ 15 per month for a full package, far less than a typical home cable or satellite bill, and less than paid by most do-it-yourself cable cutters with more than a few streaming services .
The 62-count indictment cites Carrasquillo as the leader of the scheme. In addition to copyright infringement, he is charged with wire fraud and tax evasion, among other offenses.
Courts will determine what happens to Carrasquillo, his collection of more than 50 vehicles and his residence, a mansion that once belonged to Jimmy Rollins, the legendary former Phillies shortstop.
In a perverse way, Carrasquillo will gain some admiration despite being arrested because of a technological talent that he tapped into, but even more because of who lost.
When Bradley S. Benavides, Acting Special Agent in charge of the Philadelphia Division of the FBI, declares that “you can’t just go and monetize someone else’s copyrighted content with impunity,” the “Someone else” is not an underpaid singer-songwriter or freelance. director. This is Comcast, which reported six-month revenue ending June 30 at $ 55.8 billion. Another “someone else” is Verizon, which took in $ 128.3 billion in 2020. Many customers believe it all stems from outrageous charges for cable / Internet, cell phone, and landline services. .
It’s hard to take pity on these giants, even though they got ripped off for $ 30 million. The federal government cannot ignore the “entrepreneurs” who steal these businesses. But it also suggests that consumers are looking for an illegal $ 15 all-inclusive video because they’re tired of paying hundreds of dollars a month for cable channels they don’t want but can’t remove, and service. of inferior fixed telephony and Internet, especially in rural areas.
In some ways, the Carasquillo case is a callback to 1999, when resourceful college students used Napster and other free file exchange services to avoid paying “the man” $ 15.98 for a music CD. . The original Napster was shut down, but soon after, the biggest record companies had to pay back $ 143 million to CD buyers who had allegedly fixed the prices. And, today there are legal and affordable music download services like Spotify.
Guilty or not, Carasquillo – and others like him – could spark a similar revolution in pricing and media choice. Whether it’s a $ 16-per-month cable surcharge for local TV stations or a $ 7 Sunday print newspaper, consumers always want enough to look for full-price alternatives. Overall, this is good news for the media. But “content providers,” in today’s parlance, who do not respond effectively may find themselves at the mercy of the next Napster and his descendants.
Our journalism needs your support. Please register today at NJ.com.
Send a letter to the editor of South Jersey Hours To [email protected]
Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Facebook Reviews.