These three guys took a You Only Live Once (YOLO) perspective on stealing cable television. I mean, seriously, If you’re going to steal cable, don’t just steal it for your buddy, turn it into a coast-to-coast, multi-million dollar empire.
An indictment unsealed Friday in Pennsylvania charged a New Jersey man, a California man, and a New York man with federal crimes arising out of a wide-ranging and lucrative copyright infringement scheme.
According to court documents, Bill Omar Carrasquillo, 35, of Swedesboro, New Jersey; Jesse Gonzales, 42, of Pico Rivera, California; and Michael Barone, 36, of Richmond Hill, New York, operated a large-scale cable theft scheme from early 2016 until late 2019, in which they fraudulently obtained cable television accounts and then resold the content to thousands of their own subscribers.
“You can’t just go and monetize someone else’s copyrighted content with impunity,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Bradley S. Benavides of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “That’s the whole point of securing a copyright. Theft is theft, and if you’re going to willfully steal another party’s intellectual property, the FBI stands ready to step in and shut you down.”
That’s some bravado along with some serious technical expertise, but wait, there’s more – apparently, they also committed bank fraud, lied to authorities, got caught money laundering, and didn’t pay taxes on their $30 million in ill-gotten gains.
According to the indictment, the defendants also made fraudulent misrepresentations to banks and merchant processors in an effort to obtain merchant processing accounts. The defendants allegedly earned more than $30 million from the scheme.
So where did the money go? How about an RV made by a fricken semi-truck company and a McLaren Supercar?
As alleged, Carrasquillo converted a large portion of his profits into homes and dozens of vehicles, including high-end sports cars. When agents attempted to seize those items pursuant to judicially-authorized warrants, Carrasquillo made false statements about and attempted to hide some of those vehicles, including a Freightliner recreational vehicle and a McLaren sports vehicle.
“All income is taxable, including income derived from illegal means,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Yury Kruty of the Philadelphia Field Office for IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). “In addition, it is a crime to knowingly engage in monetary transactions involving criminally derived property of a value greater than $10,000 that is derived from a specified unlawful activity, such as wire fraud. IRS-CI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to bring charges against individuals who choose to participate in illegal schemes such as that alleged here.”
And when you get sideways with that many three-letter agencies (DOJ, FCC, FBI, IRS) the penalties are going to be rough – how about 514 years rough? And, if you add all three of their possible sentences together, that number climbs to a massive 888 years. Hope it was worth it boys!
Carrasquillo was arrested on Sept. 21. He is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and related offenses; one count of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; one count of reproduction of a protected work; 19 counts of public performance of a protected work; four counts of access device fraud; six counts of wire fraud; three counts of making false statements to a bank; 19 counts of money laundering; two counts of making false statements to law enforcement officers; two counts of removal of property to prevent seizure; and four counts of tax evasion. In total, if convicted of all counts, Carrasquillo faces up to 514 years’ imprisonment.
Gonzalez was arrested on Sept. 21. He is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and related offenses; one count of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; one count of reproduction of a protected work; 19 counts of public performance of a protected work; four counts of access device fraud; five counts of wire fraud; two counts of making false statements to a bank; and one count of money laundering. In total, if convicted of all counts, Gonzales faces up to 244 years’ imprisonment.
A summons to appear in court was issued to Barone, and he is scheduled to make his initial appearance today in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and related offenses; one count of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; two counts of access device fraud; and five counts of wire fraud. In total, if convicted of all counts, Barone faces up to 130 years’ imprisonment.
“These defendants are charged with engaging in a massive, years-long scheme to steal copyrighted content, which is a serious federal crime,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “As this prosecution shows, protecting intellectual property rights is an important priority of our office and the entire Department of Justice.”
If you’re going to go to prison for the rest of your life, at least do it like these “all-in” criminals so you have a good story to tell your new BFFs.