It is not uncommon for anti-piracy groups to state that some ‘pirates’ make a lot of money.
However, whenever that is the case, there’s a tendency for most in the piracy world to maintain a low profile.
Take that position, multiply it by a million. You’re now just halfway to the crazy world of YouTube sensation OMI IN A HELLCAT.
Regularly seen on his channel adding yet another supercar to his huge collection (a recent addition was a McLaren 720s Spider), OMI – real name Omar Carrasquillo – is the founder and owner of ‘pirate’ IPTV service Gears Reloaded.
There’s no suggestion that all of OMI’s rumored $50m fortune came from piracy (he reportedly owns real estate, a restaurant, and several other businesses) but it seems highly likely that the Gears Reloaded gig is well and truly over.
Starting early yesterday, users of the Gears Reloaded IPTV service reported rare downtime. The website connected to the service displays a message indicating ‘down for maintenance’ but according to OMI himself, that’s only part of the story.
“This ain’t clickbait. This ain’t fake, this is not fake. This is 100% real,” OMI said in a noticeably subdued live Q&A with his fans a couple of hours ago, streamed from a friend’s house in Philadelphia.
“I’m gonna let you guys know exactly…and by the way, the FBI is in here [the channel] watching right now as we speak. What i’m gonna need you guys to do for me, i’m gonna need you to buy that merch when it drops,” the persistent entrepreneur began.
“Pretty much they seized all my cars. One thing they didn’t seize was the things I was able to sell a few weeks ago, even a few days ago before this shit happened. A few cars and shit.
“When I tell you they took ‘everything’, they took every SD card, every camera, every television in my house – HOUSES. They took every car. They took ALL my Hellcats. They only thing they didn’t take was my dick because it’s attached to my balls.”
Describing himself for the benefit of newcomers, OMI insisted that his wealth isn’t the result of selling drugs. He began as an app developer for Kodi, one that “got hacked early on.” He then answered the million-dollar question – what happened with the FBI?
“It was pretty much IPTV and taxes and shit and hiring the wrong CPA [accountant]. This is really important for you guys, make sure your taxes are paid for,” he said.
That “taxes and shit” is apparently a reference to pending tax evasion and money laundering charges following a two-year IRS investigation. This is particularly interesting when one considers that OMI has regularly and persistently described pirate IPTV as legal.
“I hit a great area and exploited it and they just didn’t like it. I made a ton of money but at the same time a lot of the money I made super-legit,” he told the Q&A.
“I felt that what I was doing wasn’t illegal. Streaming is totally legal, it’s just the way they’re trying to word it, it’s a little different. But streaming isn’t illegal. It was never live television, it was always delayed television and there’s no laws against it. There’s no laws against it.
“This is Napster 2.0. This wasn’t killing anybody. If anything I saved hundreds of thousands of people [with] cheaper cable. IPTV is not illegal in the US. It isn’t. It isn’t. It’s illegal in other countries but it’s not illegal in the US.
“The [Copyright Act] has nothing to do with streaming and when they seize those servers and they realize there’s nothing being stored on these servers, you have nothing on me. Streaming is not illegal. I saw a window, I saw an opportunity, I exploited the fuck out of it. That’s all it is.”
In earlier videos, OMI said that he previously made lots of money from hosting services, including Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto servers. He also talked about selling huge numbers of Firesticks. Generally, it’s difficult to find a video where the amount of money he’s made isn’t either the sole topic of conversation or at least heavily featured.
But according to OMI, that might be more difficult in the future.
“[My friend] had to lend me a phone because I don’t have a phone. They seized millions of dollars out of all my accounts. They took all the cash I had laying around,” he says. “They took all my jewelry [a recent video has OMI apparently buying $300K’s worth], kids’ things, they took Xboxes, they took computers, laptops, cellphones. They didn’t even leave drones.”
Having previously watched a good number of OMI’s videos, his optimism and positivity have always shone through. That wasn’t the case during this Q&A. By his own estimation, he’s going to prison “for a few years” although he says he’ll also take the rap for those who worked with him.
Another particular point of interest is that OMI insists that entertainment companies never sued him.
“I could’ve dealt with the MPA or the NFL suing me, that never happened. They never gave me fair warning, which by law they have to. Especially when it comes down to a crime like this, when it comes down to ‘copyright infringement’. They were supposed to hit me with a seize operation, or a cease and desist.
“They never hit me with that. I would’ve took it right down,” he adds.
However, OMI also admits that he had been receiving takedown notices issued from the UK on behalf of “the European leagues”, which seems like a reference to either Premier League or UEFA blocking efforts. He also acknowledges receiving notices from Sky, HBO, and similar “fucking stupid channels.”
If there is a point where a defendant in a serious criminal case should stop talking and consult a lawyer, OMI doesn’t seem to know where that point is. He told viewers that the FBI is accusing him of “stealing channels” but he insists he always paid for his – before capturing them and distributing them to his customers.
“I paid for my channels. I did things the old school way. I used capture cards. I take full responsibility so anybody on my team and shit, I pretty much hope you guys don’t ever go to jail now,” he explained.
According to OMI, he knew an investigation was underway since an associate he names as ‘Hector Fuentes’ was a CI (an informant).
“So he used to come around and shit, with a little wire on and could see the wire through his fucking shirt and would say dumb shit to see how far it would get him. The mother-fucker was a confidential informant. The whole time, he was putting people in jail for a long time,” OMI claimed.
Considering this was a Q&A streamed live on YouTube, things then got dark, very dark indeed. OMI says that after being detained by the FBI and being run to the station, all he could think of was killing himself, live on YouTube.
“I’m gonna go on live….and i’m going to kill myself. I’m gonna go on live, express how I feel and then shoot myself on live.”
Thankfully, for everyone’s sake, that didn’t happen.