In November 2019, dozens of FBI and IRS agents shut down a pirate IPTV service operated by YouTuber OMI IN A HELLCAT, real name Bill Omar Carrasquillo.
The authorities also seized a huge fleet of supercars, jewelry, and in excess of $5.2m in cash from a personal account. Those assets are now subject to a civil forfeiture process initiated by the United States Government.
It’s alleged that Carrasquillo and his business partners operated IPTV services variously branded as Gears, Reloaded, and Gears Reloaded, selling access to television, movies and sports content without authorization or license.
“Gears TV and its related entities received tens of millions of dollars in revenue, i.e., proceeds, during the period of time in which the enterprise operated the illegal video content service,” the US Government complaint reads.
Ever since the raid, Carrasquillo has insisted that his services operated legally, or at least within a legal gray area. To that end, he’s now asking a US court to return all of the seized assets.
Answer to US Government Complaint
As far as we’re aware, the US Government has not yet indicted Carrasquillo for copyright infringement, money laundering, and tax evasion offenses. He recently predicted that could be a matter of weeks away but in advance of that, the active YouTuber is continuing to protest his innocence.
In an answer to the complaint that aims to seize his assets, Carrasquillo addresses dozens of claims raised by the US Government, mostly insisting that they are “legal conclusions” to which no responsive pleading is required. As a result, he denies most of the key allegations.
Addressing more than $5.2m seized from a single personal bank account, in excess of $1.6m seized from various Gears-related accounts, and around 57 vehicles, including several Lamborghinis and a Bentley Continental GT, Carrasquillo says that since no crimes were committed, none of these items should have been seized.
He specifically denies committing criminal copyright infringement (17 U.S.C. § 506 or 18 U.S.C. § 2319), including infringement for commercial advantage or private financial gain, the reproduction of one or more copyrighted works worth more than $1,000, and/or the distribution via a computer network of a work being prepared for commercial release.
“[I]t is denied that the Defendant Property is subject to forfeiture because it was used, in any manner or part to commit or facilitate the commission of violations of 17 U.S.C. §506 and/or 18 U.S.C. §2319, it is further denied that the Defendant Property is property constituting or derived from proceeds obtained directly or indirectly as a result of the commission of violations of the statutes named,” the answer reads.
Carrasquillo’s Denials Continue
Addressing a list of allegations that indicate that Carrasquillo was involved in a large pirate IPTV operation that utilized ancillary companies and payment processors to stay in business, the YouTuber either denies in full, denies that the allegations “are true and correct”, or claims insufficient knowledge to form a belief whether they are true or not.
This response format continues throughout much of the answer, with the ultimate conclusion that the seized property is not subject to forfeiture because it was not connected to monetary transactions derived from unlawful activity, including breaches of the Copyright Act.
“Claimant Carrasquillo respectfully requests that this Court enter a judgment in his favor and against the United States of America with regard to the seized property as set forth herein, returning it to Claimant,” the answer concludes, demanding a trial by jury.
Carrasquillo’s answer to the complaint containing the full list of seized items can be found here (pdf)