In September 2021, a grand jury returned a 62-count indictment charging Bill Omar Carrasquillo with crimes related to his Gears-branded IPTV services.
Better known online as YouTuber ‘Omi in a Hellcat,’ Carrasquillo ran an illegal internet-based television and movie streaming service using video content fraudulently obtained from cable providers.
From March 2016 through November 2019, Carrasquillo and his co-defendants opened fraudulent accounts with TV providers Charter Communications, Comcast, DirecTV, Frontier Corporation, and Verizon Fios.
These companies supplied hundreds of set-top boxes and similar equipment to multiple properties owned by Carrasquillo. At these locations, content supplied by the TV providers had its copy protection stripped before being transmitted, stored, and then retransmitted to Gears subscribers using servers and other hardware controlled by Carrasquillo and his co-defendants.
U.S. Government Attorneys Submit Sentencing Memorandum
In a sentencing memorandum submitted in a Pennsylvania federal court on Tuesday, U.S. government attorneys say the infringement amount associated with the defendants’ services had been “conservatively” calculated at $176 million.
“Carrasquillo personally profited from the conspiracy in an amount of $30,095,204,” the memorandum notes.
62 Count Indictment
The original indictment charged Carrasquillo with a laundry list of crimes:
Conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, circumvention of access controls, access device fraud, wire fraud, criminal circumvention of copyright protection measures under the DMCA, and 20 counts of criminal copyright infringement.
And the list continued: six counts of wire fraud, three counts of false statements to a bank, 19 counts of monetary transactions from specified unlawful activity, two counts of false statements, two counts of removal of property and, finally, four counts of tax evasion.
Carrasquillo’s Plea Agreement
Carrasquillo and the government subsequently entered into a written plea agreement, the details of which are now revealed for the first time. On February 1, 2022, Carrasquillo pled guilty to the following:
- 1. Conspiracy to commit felony & misdemeanor copyright infringement, circumvention of access controls, access device fraud, & wire fraud from March 2016 through November 23, 2019, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371
- 2. Circumvention of an access control device, from March 2016 through November 23, 2019, in violation of 17 U.S.C. §§ 1201(a)(1)(A), 1204(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2
- 3. Reproduction of a protected work (felony copyright infringement via reproduction of copyrighted video works) from May 24, 2019 to November 20, 2019, in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 506(a)(1)(A) and 18 U.S.C. §§ 2319(b)(1) and 2
- 4. Public performance of a protected work (misdemeanor copyright infringement through via “streaming” of copyrighted video works) of three specific copyrighted video works between February 11, 2019, and November 20, 2019, in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 506(a)(1)(A) and 18 U.S.C. §§ 2319(b)(3) and 2 (Counts 4, 13, and 18)
- 5. Access device fraud from June 6, 2018 through June 5, 20198, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1029(a)(2), (c)(1)(a)(i) and 2
- 6. A wire fraud scheme against the victim cable companies from March 2016 through November 23, 2019, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343
- 7. False statements to a bank June 14, 2019, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1014 and 2; and
- Engaging in monetary transactions derived from specified unlawful activity (money laundering) on December 20, 2018, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1957
- 9. False statement, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001
- 10. Tax evasion, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7201
Carrasquillo agreed to forfeit $5,895,507.76 in cash seized from his bank accounts.
The YouTuber also agreed to forfeit more than 50 vehicles (including his infamous supercar collection), and close to 50 real properties, most with Philadelphia addresses.
Carrasquillo agreed to the entry of a forfeiture money judgment of all of the proceeds he received from his Gears TV empire, and to pay restitution to the victims in an amount to be ordered by the court.
Possible 98 Years’ Imprisonment, $3.5 Million in Fines
Having pled guilty to crimes carrying a maximum sentence of 98 years in prison, Carrasquillo’s focus will be on convincing the court that a much shorter sentence will be sufficient. Meanwhile, the U.S. government’s sentencing submission attempts to quantify the scale of Carrasquillo’s offending to arrive at a suitable sentence, all things considered.
Carrasquillo’s pirate service relied on the decoding, copying, and retransmission of more than three years of cable programming broadcast on hundreds of channels. Each channel aired different programs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That is a huge amount of infringement but almost impossible to quantify.
“Assuming each channel aired only one show per hour each day, and further assuming that the Gears Service had illicitly transmitted only 100 channels, if the infringement amount were calculated based on the total number of times the defendants copied and transmitted an infringing copyrighted television program to one of their subscribers, the government would have to determine the individual retail value of an astounding 3,066,000 programs,” the government explains.
Quantifying Infringement Amount
The government details two options for calculating the overall infringement amount.
The first method begins with subscription fees paid to the Gears service (around $34,826,402) and divides that by $19 (subscription price per month) to arrive at a total of 1,832,968 ‘subscriber months’. The cost of a subscription in the legal market is estimated at $120.68 per month, so when multiplied by all of Gears’ ‘subscriber months’, the government reaches a total estimated infringement amount of $221,202,578.
The second approach is more straightforward. Using a customer database seized from the defendants (which does not include start/end dates for 148,807 customers who purchased subscriptions from resellers, the government estimates a total of 1,390,595 ‘subscriber months’. Multiplying that figure by a legal monthly subscription cost of $120.68, the total estimated infringement amounts to $167,817,004.
Government Believes 15 Years+ in Prison is Appropriate
In summary, Carrasquillo’s infringement was massive and complicated by other offenses, such as money laundering and tax evasion, etc. The government says that advisory guidelines indicate a sentence of 292 to 365 months but concedes that even the lower figure (24 years in prison) would be “highly unusual” for a copyright matter.
“Accordingly, based on Carrasquillo’s leadership of this organization, his culpability, the seriousness of his offense conduct, and his existing criminal record, the government calculates his advisory sentence range to be 188 – 235 months’ imprisonment (15 years and 8 months – 19 years and 7 months),” the sentencing memorandum concludes.
Carrasquillo will be sentenced next month.