Multiple Defendants Indicted in Alleged Intellectual Property Theft Scheme
An indictment was unsealed yesterday in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania charging 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 between at least March 2016 and at least November 2019, in which they fraudulently obtained cable television accounts and then resold copyrighted content to thousands of their own subscribers. 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.
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.
“We take seriously schemes for profit that infringe upon copyrights,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The charges announced today demonstrate the department’s continuing commitment to protect copyright holders from theft.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.
A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The FBI and IRS-CI are investigating the case.
Trial Attorney Jeff Pearlman of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher J. Mannion and Matthew T. Newcomer of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania are prosecuting the case.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.