After entering a guilty plea some time ago, former pirate IPTV service operator Bill Omar Carrasquillo was sentenced Tuesday in a Philadelphia court.
Last month the U.S. government called for 15.5 years in prison for crimes related to Carrasquillo’s pirate IPTV service, Gears TV, which was shut down by the FBI in 2019.
That was still a far cry from the 500+ years thrown around in the earlier stages of the case, but after causing an estimated $167 million in damages to TV providers Charter Communications, Comcast, DirecTV, Frontier Corporation, and Verizon Fios, perhaps not completely out of the question.
Some details were already settled prior to sentencing. In Carrasquillo’s plea agreement, the YouTuber acknowledged a laundry list of crimes, from the most serious copyright offenses to fraud and money laundering crimes.
Among them, conspiracy to commit felony & misdemeanor copyright infringement, circumvention of access controls, access device fraud, & wire fraud, circumvention of an access control device, reproduction of a protected work, public performance of a protected work, and wire fraud against the cable companies. Other crimes included making false statements to a bank, money laundering, and tax evasion.
Financial penalties included forfeiture of just over $30 million, including $5.89 million in cash seized from bank accounts, Carrasquillo’s now-famous supercar collection, and multiple pieces of real estate in the Philadelphia area.
Hearing in Philadelphia
In a hearing scheduled for 2:30pm yesterday at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Carrasquillo appeared in courtroom 16A before Judge Harvey Bartle III.
In a sentencing memorandum for the defense, details of Carrasquillo’s early life – most of which had already been made public by Carrasquillo in videos posted to social media – make for depressing reading.
One of 38 children, Carrasquillo had no stable care or supervision. Physically and sexually abused by family members, Carrasquillo was intentionally committed to mental health facilities by one supposed caregiver, purely for the purposes of obtaining prescriptions for narcotics which were then sold.
Carrasquillo’s mother was deported for various crimes and then died as a result of drug addiction. The only constant in his life was his father, who taught a 12-year-old Carrasquillo how to cook crack and sell drugs.
“Omar battles constant battles of depression because he questions his own self-worth. He could have easily accepted that there is no ‘better’ for him,” his attorney said, adding: “HE DID NOT!”
“He began to look for opportunities that did not require formal training or a high school diploma. He found passion and love in the business of marketing and internet sales.”
Despite no formal training or schooling beyond the 11th grade, Carrasquillo developed a highly successful YouTube channel and a construction company, among other legal businesses. The story of how he entered the IPTV business and generated millions in profit is well-documented, but today his “legal loophole” theory has been discarded.
“Omar is not asking for a pass,” his attorney assured the Court. “Protected works should not be copied. Period. He crossed the line and he knew he should not have.”
All parties agreed that the TV companies are entitled to restitution and together they will receive $$10,761,573.20. A similar position was adopted for the IRS, which is entitled to restitution in the amount of $5,717,912.02.
From 500+ years imprisonment through to a theoretical 98 years for the crimes listed in the plea agreement, the U.S. government recently acknowledged that the advisory guidelines of 24 years would be “highly unusual” for a copyright matter. Instead, government attorneys recommended a sentence of between 188 and 235 months.
When sentencing Carrasquillo Tuesday, Judge Harvey Bartle III decided that 66 months would be enough to punish Carrasquillo and send a deterrent message to any of his followers considering the same type of behavior.
Carrasquillo: Judge Was “Super Fair”
In video recorded outside the Court, Carrasquillo said he’d been dreading the sentencing hearing but is pleased with the outcome.
“I feel like the Judge was super fair. He heard everyone’s testimony about my character [from] everyone who came to Court. The judge ordered me to 66 months of federal prison, which I thought was fair, especially how much money I made,” he said.
“I’ve got to pay ten point something million in restitution [to the TV companies] which they already have, which will be applied. And I got to pay another $5.7 million in restitution to the IRS. So you know, I’ll be home in the next two to three years.”
After being raided by the FBI in 2019 and being charged in 2021, Carrasquillo said the day had “been a long time coming.”
“You know, the Judge was super lenient but fair, but also [wanted to] deter other people from committing the same type of TV piracy that I committed. But it’s over,” he said.
“I already know what I’m doing, I know what I’m getting. There’s no more stress, no more nothing. I know when I come home, everything will be fine. I’m good. 66 months was super fair. And you know, it sucks for my kids, but I’m happy with it.”
Well-known for his ability to transform dust into gold and losses into wins, Carrasquillo revisited his well-documented struggles with weight and noted an opportunity ahead.
“It’s probably salvation for my fat ass to lose some weight anyway,” he said.