Ozy Media and its CEO, Carlos Watson, are in hot water.
According to a Reuters report, Watson and his media company have been criminally charged for scheming to defraud investors of tens of millions of dollars by misrepresenting the company’s debts, financial performance, and audience size.
Allegedly, the charges against Watson and Ozy Media are based on his working with co-conspirators to forge a contract and as an executive for a cable network company to gain financing from a bank in 2019.
It was also reported that Watson and the co-conspirator allegedly convinced an unidentified financial institution to invest $45 million by falsifying records regarding the company’s audience size, backing from other investors, and revenue.
“As alleged, Carlos Watson is a con man whose business strategy was based on outright deceit and fraud – he ran Ozy as a criminal organization rather than as a reputable media company,” Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace reportedly said in a statement.
Watson posted a $1 million bail, having been arrested just days after his co-founder Samir Rao pleaded guilty to similar charges in Brooklyn federal court. In a statement to Variety, Watson’s attorney expressed his discontent with the matter.
“I am deeply disappointed by the events of today. We were engaged in a good faith and constructive dialogue with the government. Given the [Justice] Department’s claims of promoting such dialogue, I do not understand the dramatic decision to arrest Carlos today,” Lanny Breuer said, according to Reuters.
The alleged scheme involved Rao impersonating a YouTube executive to raise for his media company.
And while Rao has admitted to guilt, Watson has not been forthcoming with his alleged participation in the incident.
“Watson acknowledged the incident on Twitter at the time but denied wrongdoing and chalked Rao’s behavior up to a mental health episode. Goldman did not ultimately invest, Watson said in the tweet,” Reuters reported.
In addition to the criminal charges against Watson and Ozy Media, the United State Securities and Exchange Commission filed a separate civil lawsuit against all parties.