CEO of Ozy Media Arrested on Fraud Charges
Carlos Watson, the CEO and co-founder of the embattled Ozy Media, was arrested on Thursday on fraud charges after his former partner Samir Rao pleaded guilty to similar charges earlier this week. The Wall Street Journal first reported Watson’s arrest.
According to prosecutors for the Eastern District of New York, Watson had “engaged in a scheme to defraud OZY’s investors, potential investors, potential acquirers, lenders and potential lenders” by misrepresenting the company’s audience numbers and financial results. Watson faces charges of conspiring to commit securities fraud and conspiring to commit wire fraud, as well as aggravated identity theft for his role in the impersonation of several media executives.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a court document dated Wednesday that Watson and his business partners attempted to defraud investors and lenders out of “tens of millions of dollars through fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions” between 2018 and 2021. The SEC also accused Watson and Ozy of widespread fraud.
In addition to Watson, Rao and former chief of staff Suzee Han have also pleaded guilty to fraud conspiracy charges. Rao admitted to a judge that he made misleading statements to investors and inflated the company's finances.
Speaking to NBC News, Watson’s lawyer Lanny Breuer said, “We were engaged in a good faith and constructive dialogue with the government. Given the Department’s claims of promoting such dialogue, I do not understand the dramatic decision to arrest Carlos today.”
If convicted, Watson faces a mandatory two-year prison sentence and a maximum 37-year sentence. The Wall Street Journal reports Watson is expected to be arraigned in Brooklyn Federal Court on Thursday afternoon. Ozy Media has yet to comment on the development.
0. “Ozy CEO arrested after former exec pleads guilty to fraud” Axios, 22 Feb. 2023, https://www.axios.com/2023/02/23/ozy-ceo-arrested-after-former-exec-pleads-guilty-to-fraud
1. “Feds Arrest Ozy Media CEO at Swanky New York Hotel in Fraud Bust” The Daily Beast, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/ozy-media-ceo-carlos-watson-arrested-on-fraud-charges
2. “Ozy Media founder Carlos Watson arrested on fraud charges” The Guardian, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2023/feb/23/ozy-media-founder-carlos-watson-arrested-fraud-charges
3. “Ozy Media CEO Carlos Watson charged with fraud in alleged fundraising scheme” CNBC, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/02/23/ozy-media-ceo-carlos-watson-arrested.html
4. “After YouTube exec impersonation, Ozy Media bosses hit with fraud charges” Courthouse News Service, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.courthousenews.com/after-youtube-exec-impersonation-ozy-media-bosses-hit-with-fraud-charges/
5. “Ozy Media founder Carlos Watson arrested for fraud scheme” BBC, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-64726729
6. “Ozy Media CEO Carlos Watson arrested on fraud charges” NBC News, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/ozy-media-ceo-carlos-watson-arrested-fraud-charges-rcna71999
7. “Ozy Media co-founder Carlos Watson arrested on federal fraud charges” New York Daily News, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-ozy-carter-watson-ceo-arrested-fraud-20230223-3lytgct5xrhf5pzqk3e5dvhjua-story.html
8. “Ozy Media CEO Carlos Watson Arrested, Charged With Securities Fraud” Variety, 23 Feb. 2023, https://variety.com/2023/digital/news/ozy-media-carlos-watson-arrested-securities-fraud-1235533344/