When large ‘pirate’ services are taken down, the tendency is for copyright holders and/or the authorities to make a lot of noise. Taking out big players is seen as an achievement and is often held up as an example to others not to follow the same path.
Last November, when the founder of Gears Reloaded ‘pirate’ IPTV service Omar Carrasquillo was reportedly targeted in a massive FBI raid, not a single person in authority would confirm the existence of an investigation. Independent eyewitnesses appeared on TV to reveal what they saw but now, several months on, information from official sources remains non-existent.
Carrasquillo, better known by his social media handle OMI IN A HELLCAT, has been talking a lot, however. He’s appeared in TV interviews with his lawyer, decrying the seizure of dozens of luxury cars, huge volumes of jewelry, and “at least” $5.2m in cash. He says the entire operation against him grew out of his position as the founder of Gears, an unpaid tax bill, plus allegations of money laundering.
Nevertheless, he keeps maintaining his innocence. Time and again he’s said that capturing live TV broadcasters from cable providers and streaming channels to end-users over the Internet at an affordable price is completely legal. He found a loophole, he says, and companies didn’t like it.
Until now, Carrasquillo has never directly pointed a finger at who might have prompted the case against him. In a live stream this week, however, he claimed that the second-largest telecoms company in the United States is at the root of his troubles. (Note: most expletives removed)
“There’s nothing worse than coming home and grabbing your bills – electric company you gotta pay, water is an essential, gas you need to cook, $300 cable bill – what the fuck?” he said.
“Everybody hates the cable companies, they’re a monopoly. So when you come out with a service that’s affordable to the world and it’s not illegal, oh my God, I’m in somebody’s pocket.”
And then the bombshell.
“Comcast is paying for this investigation [unintelligible]. There’s an unfiled Comcast claim but why didn’t Comcast sue me? ‘Cos they knew it was an uphill battle so what did they do? They got the FBI involved, tried to take me down,” he claimed.
Coincidentally or not, Carrasquillo’s main home is in Philadelphia. Comcast has its headquarters in the same city.
According to several videos posted by Carrasquillo in recent weeks, he has been working hard behind the scenes through official channels to try and reclaim his property. However, he claims there has been significant pushback after the FBI began using his videos and social media postings as evidence against him.
Insisting again and again that streaming captured TV broadcasts to the public is not illegal, Carrasquillo says he filed a motion to get his property back. In response, the FBI had to send in evidence to support why the goods should continue to be held while the investigation continues.
According to him, they “took his [social media] posts and sent them to the judge”. Since the raid, most of Carrasquillo’s posts have centered on him getting back on his feet, allegedly making significant amounts of money, some of it used to replenish his car collection. He believes those videos are now undermining him.
“Look judge, he’s saying that he’s still a millionaire, he doesn’t need the money. We can still hold it throughout the whole investigation,” he said in a mocking summary of what was allegedly reported to the court.
At this point, Carrasquillo seems to imply that not everything portrayed in those videos and postings should necessarily be taken at face value and that, in some cases, those in the entertainment business may face pressures to impress.
“Entertainers, we have a certain image to uphold and this is why I don’t show anything anymore because frankly, it ain’t nobody’s business. Whether I got it or I don’t got it, I ain’t gonna say it no more. Because obviously you’re using what I say as an exhibit and send it to the judge,” he added.
Carrasquillo says he’s hoping to settle his case with the IRS via a payment plan but he insists that any claims of money laundering are nonsense. He says he’s not upset with anyone working on the case and says that he’s “pretty sure” that the two investigators and district attorneys “are pretty nice guys.” That said, he is unhappy with what he describes as an “unethical process and the events that took place.”
Just before he was raided, Carrasquillo went to the Dominican Republic and he believes this prompted the authorities to act earlier than they would’ve preferred.
“Be honest you guys came to [sic] early I broke no laws apology accepted,” he wrote in a separate post. “While Gears is down 20 more shitty services came up and I don’t see you guys doing shit about it. Want to know why? Steaming isn’t illegal. It’s victimless and not against the law. I did not host shit on servers this was a matter for copyright holders to sue. Not for the FBI to get involved.”
Only time will tell when the other side of this pretty one-sided story will see the light of day. As indicated previously, no one in authority is prepared to comment at this stage.