There are many figures on social media who clout chase and act like they lead dream lives. Few actually have the bread to back up what they’re talking about. 36-year-old Bill Omar Carrasquillo of Philadelphia was one of the latter. Under the alias “Omi In A Hellcat,” he flaunted properties, cars, jewelry and more on Youtube and Instagram, amassing a following of over 800,000.
However, the authorities heavily scrutinized how he acquired those things. Earlier this month, Omi In Hellcat was sentenced to more than five years in prison for his role as the head of a vast cable piracy scheme that brought in tens of millions of dollars.
Omi In A Hellcat’s story is truly one of rags-to-riches. He grew up rough in North Philadelphia as one of 38 children. As a child, his mother was deported and died of a drug overdose. His father, a drug dealer, taught Omi how to cook crack at the tender age of 12. For much of his youth, he was in and out of relatives’ homes and foster care. One caretaker even went so far as to have him intentionally committed to a mental health facility to obtain prescription narcotics he could later sell on the streets. His teenage years and early 20s were largely spent in and out of correctional facilities for drug and other charges.
Without a high school diploma or financial support, Omi swore off that life and focused on the enterprise that would eventually land him in prison. Starting in 2016, he hopped into the $1 billion a year illicit IPTV game with his company, known at different points by names like Gears TV and Gears Reloaded. His service provided subscribers with hundreds of on-demand movies and television shows as well as access to dozens of live cable channels and pay-per-view events for as low as $15 a month. All of the content was stolen from legitimate services like Comcast, Verizon FiOS, and DirecTV by hacking the encrypted cable boxes and then streaming and reselling the copyrighted content transmitted through them. The service did extremely well, attracting more than 100,000 subscribers and raking in over $34 million before the feds shut it down in 2019.
Last year, Omi In A Hellcat pleaded guilty to charges including copyright infringement and tax fraud. Regardless of the plea, he and his attorney argued that he was operating in a legal gray area where he legally paid for subscriptions to all the cable services whose content he was accused of pirating. In a Youtube post, he likened his business to inviting friends over who didn’t have cable and taking up a collection for pay-per-view events. “I’m only guilty of making money,” he said in the video. “I ain’t guilty of nothing else.” However, also last year, Congress moved to define operations like Gears TV as illegal.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“‘This was illegal the entire time,’ said Jason Gull, a senior attorney in the Justice Department’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.
He noted that Carrasquillo had made more money from his operation than ‘virtually every other copyright defendant I’ve ever seen,’ adding: ‘The message to the general public and Mr. Carrasquillo’s many, many fans is that this was a serious offense that should yield significant punishment.’”
Ultimately, Omi In A Hellcat was sentenced to five and a half years in federal custody. He was also ordered to forfeit more than $30 million in assets “including nearly $6 million in cash; cars including Lamborghinis, Porsches, Bentleys, and McLarens; and a portfolio of more than a dozen properties he’d amassed across Philadelphia and its suburbs.”
Recently, Omi In A Hellcat was also named in an infringement lawsuit along with sneaker designer Kool Kiy brought by Nike. The sneaker giant accuses Omi and Kiy of respectively ripping off Nike’s silhouettes for their own lines of sneakers.