PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A YouTube celebrity and Instagram influencer from Philadelphia says he's now under the microscope of federal authorities. He claims agents seized nearly all of his assets in a raid last month while investigating his business dealings.
Thirty-three-year-old North Philadelphia native Bill Omar Carrasquillo is better known to his hundreds of thousands of YouTube subscribers and Instagram followers as "Omi in a Hellcat," a diamond-clad, exotic car enthusiast, whose photos and videos showcasing his extreme wealth have garnered millions of views.
But the lifestyle that attracted so many fans has also grabbed the attention of the feds, who last month, according to Carrasquillo, seized millions in bank accounts, more than 30 cars, as well as electronics from properties he owns, including a mansion in Woolwich Township, New Jersey.
Instead of going into hiding following the government raid, Carrasquillo has been open about his predicament, continuing to post YouTube videos.
"Bro, when I told you they took everything, they took every SD card, every camera, every television in my house, houses. They took every car," he said in one video.
Carrasquillo and his attorney, Donte Mills of Mills and Edwards, sat down exclusively with Eyewitness News, addressing the investigation into possible tax evasion, copyright infringement and money laundering.
"I was a multi-millionaire a week ago, and now I'm down to nothing," he said.
Carrasquillo maintains that the fortune he's acquired has been through legal means. He owns a construction company and rental properties. But in mid-2016, he launched an internet-based streaming app called Gears TV Reloaded, where users pay a monthly fee to access premium cable, sports and pay per view content. The idea made him a multi-millionaire.
"He's being penalized for being innovative and creative. There is no law that says he could not do what he was doing," Mills said.
Carrasquillo is not currently facing any criminal charges but in August, the Department of Justice shut down two similar IPTV streaming apps, announcing charges against eight people for violations of federal copyright law. Two of those defendants pleaded guilty earlier this month. But Carrasquillo says his operation is different.
"No copyright holders ever got in contact with me to say, 'Hey, you can't do this' because there are certain ways that I set the business up that's going to prove a million percent that it wasn't illegal," Carrasquillo said. "I just saw a loophole, I sought counsel on it, they told me it wasn't illegal and I went for it. And now I'm being punished for it."
His attorney suspects his client is being targeted for being somewhat of an unlikely success story, given his background and where he grew up.
"They're confused as to how is this guy from North Philadelphia able to create so much wealth? He must be doing something wrong. And it's unfair. He shouldn't be treated this way," Mills said
Carrasquillo admits he does owe back taxes, which he attributes to a lack of financial literacy. He says he was making attempts to pay them before the government seized his assets.
"In the middle of us trying to work out a deal to pay them back, they came and seized everything. Everything. Even the tablets out of my kid's hands," he said.
With liens placed on his properties and his accounts frozen, he says he's unable to operate his businesses or pay his 30 employees.
"There are car notes, there's a ton of families right now, going through. They can't even seek legal advice because they're in the situation with me," he said. "This is a bad situation for everyone at the table. I just hope the U.S. Attorney can see this and come to a resolution."
The FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Eastern District Office have not confirmed nor denied the existence of an investigation, but domains associated with Gears TV now have a Department of Justice seizure notice on them. The notice states the domains were taken down by court order as part of a criminal copyright infringement, money laundering and tax evasion investigation.
A representative from the IRS tells Eyewitness News that federal law prohibits them from discussing any individual taxpayer's situation.
Right now, Carrasquillo says he's living off of his YouTube revenue.
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